Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 90

VOL.

400, APRIL 1, 267


2003
People vs. Lacson
*
G.R. No. 149453.April 1, 2003.

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, THE SECRETARY OF JUSTICE, DIRECTOR GENERAL OF


THE PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE, CHIEF STATE PROSECUTOR JOVENCITO ZUO,
STATE PROSECUTORS PETER L. ONG and RUBEN A. ZACARIAS; 2ND ASSISTANT CITY
PROSECUTOR CONRADO M. JAMOLIN and CITY PROSECUTOR OF QUEZON CITY CLARO
ARELLANO, petitioners,vs.PANFILO M. LACSON, respondent.

Criminal Procedure;Provisional Dismissals; Requisites of First Paragraph, Section 8, Rule 117 of the
Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure.Section 8, Rule 117 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure
reads: Sec. 8. Provisional dismissal.A case shall not be provisionally dismissed except with the express
consent of the accused and with notice to the offended party. The provisional dismissal of offenses
punishable by imprisonment not exceeding six (6) years or a fine of any amount, or both, shall become
permanent one (1) year after issuance of the order without the case having been revived. With respect to
offenses punishable by imprisonment of more than six (6) years, their provisional dismissal shall become
permanent two (2) years after issuance of the order without the case having been revived. Having invoked
said rule before the petitioners-panel of prosecutors and before the Court of Appeals, the respondent is
burdened to establish the essential requisites of the first paragraph thereof, namely: 1) the prosecution with
the express conformity of the accused or the accused moves for a provisional (sin perjuicio) dismissal of the
case; or both the prosecution and the accused move for a provisional dismissal of the case; 2) the offended
party is notified of the motion for a provisional dismissal of the case; 3) the court issues an order granting
the

_______________

*EN BANC.

268

268 SUPREME
COURT
REPORTS
ANNOTATED

People vs. Lacson

motion and dismissing the case provisionally; and 4) the public prosecutor is served with a copy of the
order of provisional dismissal of the case.
Same;Same;Double Jeopardy;The raison detre for the requirement of the express consent of the accused
to a provisional dismissal of a criminal case is to bar him from subsequently asserting that the revival of the
criminal case will place him in double jeopardy for the same offense or for an offense necessarily included
therein.The foregoing requirements are conditionssine qua nonto the application of the time-bar in the
second paragraph of the new rule. The raison d etre for the requirement of the express consent of the
accused to a provisional dismissal of a criminal case is to bar him from subsequently asserting that the
revival of the criminal case will place him in double jeopardy for the same offense or for an offense
necessarily included therein.
Same; Same; Time-Bar; Statutory Construction; Second paragraph of Section 8, Rule 117 should be
construed to mean that the order of dismissal shall become permanent one year or two years, as the case may
be, after the service of the order of dismissal on the public prosecutor who has control of the prosecution
without the criminal case having been revived.Although the second paragraph of the new rule states that
the order of dismissal shall become permanent one year after the issuance thereof without the case having
been revived, the provision should be construed to mean that the order of dismissal shall become permanent
one year after service of the order of dismissal on the public prosecutor who has control of the prosecution
without the criminal case having been revived. The public prosecutor cannot be expected to comply with the
timeline unless he is served with a copy of the order of dismissal.
Same;Same;Same;The mere inaction or silence of the accused to a motion for provisional dismissal of
the case or his failure to object to a provisional dismissal does not amount to express consent; A motion of the
accused for a provisional dismissal of a case is an express consent to such provisional dismissal; If a criminal
case is provisionally dismissed without the express consent of the accused or over his objection, the new rule
would not apply.Express consent to a provisional dismissal is given eitherviva voceor in writing. It is a
positive, direct, unequivocal consent requiring no inference or implication to supply its meaning. Where the
accused writes on the motion of a prosecutor for a provisional dismissal of the caseNo objectionorWith my
conformity, the writing amounts to express consent of the accused to a provisional dismissal of the case. The
mere inaction or silence of the accused to a motion for a provisional dismissal of the case or his failure to
object to a provisional dismissal does not amount to express consent. A motion of the accused for a
provisional dismissal of a case is an express consent to such provisional dismissal. If a criminal case is
provisionally dismissed with the express consent of the accused, the case may

269

VOL. 400, 269


APRIL 1, 2003

People vs. Lacson

be revived only within the periods provided in the new rule. On the other hand, if a criminal case is
provisionally dismissed without the express consent of the accused or over his objection, the new rule would
not apply. The case may be revived or refiled even beyond the prescribed periods subject to the right of the
accused to oppose the same on the ground of double jeopardy or that such revival or refiling is barred by the
statute of limitations.
Same;Same;Same;The case may be revived by the State within the time-bar either by the refiling of the
Information or by the filing of a new Information for the same offense or an offense necessarily included
therein, without need of a new preliminary investigation unless the original witnesses of the prosecution or
some of them may have recanted their testimonies or may have died or may no longer be available and new
witnesses for the State have emerged.The case may be revived by the State within the time-bar either by
the refiling of the Information or by the filing of a new Information for the same offense or an offense
necessarily included therein. There would be no need of a new preliminary investigation. However, in a case
wherein after the provisional dismissal of a criminal case, the original witnesses of the prosecution or some
of them may have recanted their testimonies or may have died or may no longer be available and new
witnesses for the State have emerged, a new preliminary investigation must be conducted before an
Information is refiled or a new Information is filed. A new preliminary investigation is also required if aside
from the original accused, other persons are charged under a new criminal complaint for the same offense or
necessarily included therein; or if under a new criminal complaint, the original charge has been upgraded;
or if under a new criminal complaint, the criminal liability of the accused is upgraded from that as an
accessory to that as a principal. The accused must be accorded the right to submit counter-affidavits and
evidence. After all, the fiscal is not called by the Rules of Court to wait in ambush; the role of a fiscal is not
mainly to prosecute but essentially to do justice to every man and to assist the court in dispensing that
justice.
Same; Same; Same; It must be borne in mind that in crimes involving private interests, the new rule
requires that the offended party or parties or the heirs of the victims must be given adequate a priori notice of
any motion for the provisional dismissal of the criminal case, and the proof of such service must be shown
during the hearing on the motion, otherwise, the requirement of the new rule will become illusory.The
Court also agrees with the petitioners contention that no notice of any motion for the provisional dismissal
of Criminal Cases Nos. Q-99-81679 to Q-99-81689 or of the hearing thereon was served on the heirs of the
victims at least three days before said hearing as mandated by Rule 15, Section 4 of the Rules of Court. It
must be borne in mind that in crimes involving private interests, the new rule requires that the offended
party or parties or the heirs of the

270

270 SUPREME
COURT
REPORTS
ANNOTATED

People vs. Lacson

victims must be given adequate a priori notice of any motion for the provisional dismissal of the
criminal case. Such notice may be served on the offended party or the heirs of the victim through the private
prosecutor, if there is one, or through the public prosecutor who in turn must relay the notice to the offended
party or the heirs of the victim to enable them to confer with him before the hearing or appear in court
during the hearing. The proof of such service must be shown during the hearing on the motion, otherwise,
the requirement of the new rule will become illusory. Such notice will enable the offended party or the heirs
of the victim the opportunity to seasonably and effectively comment on or object to the motion on valid
grounds, including: (a) the collusion between the prosecution and the accused for the provisional dismissal of
a criminal case thereby depriving the State of its right to due process; (b) attempts to make witnesses
unavailable; or (c) the provisional dismissal of the case with the consequent release of the accused from
detention would enable him to threaten and kill the offended party or the other prosecution witnesses or flee
from Philippine jurisdiction, provide opportunity for the destruction or loss of the prosecutions physical and
other evidence and prejudice the rights of the offended party to recover on the civil liability of the accused by
his concealment or furtive disposition of his property or the consequent lifting of the writ of preliminary
attachment against his property.
Same;Same;Same;Statute of Limitations;Prescription;Statutes of limitations are construed as acts of
grace, and a surrender by the sovereign of its right to prosecute or of its right to prosecute at its discretion
such statutes are considered as equivalent to acts of amnesty; The time-bar under Section 8 of Rule 117 is
akin to a special procedural limitation qualifying the right of the State to prosecute making the time-bar an
essence of the given right or as an inherent part thereof, so that the lapse of the time-bar operates to
extinguish the right of the State to prosecute the accused.The Court agrees with the respondent that the
new rule is not a statute of limitations. Statutes of limitations are construed as acts of grace, and a
surrender by the sovereign of its right to prosecute or of its right to prosecute at its discretion. Such statutes
are considered as equivalent to acts of amnesty founded on the liberal theory that prosecutions should not be
allowed to ferment endlessly in the files of the government to explode only after witnesses and proofs
necessary for the protection of the accused have by sheer lapse of time passed beyond availability. The
periods fixed under such statutes are jurisdictional and are essential elements of the offenses covered. On
the other hand, the time-bar under Section 8 of Rule 117 is akin to a special procedural limitation qualifying
the right of the State to prosecute making the time-bar an essence of the given right or as an inherent part
thereof, so that the lapse of the time-bar operates to extinguish the right of the State to prosecute the
accused.

271

VOL. 400, 271


APRIL 1, 2003

People vs. Lacson

Same;Same;Same; Same; Same; The time-bar under the new rule does not reduce the periods under
Article 90 of the Revised Penal Code, a substantive lawit is but a limitation of the right of the State to
revive a criminal case against the accused after the Information had been filed but subsequently provisionally
dismissed with the express consent of the accusedbut whether or not the prosecution of the accused is barred
by the statute of limitations or by the lapse of the time-line under the new rule, the effect is the same; The
State may revive a criminal case beyond the one-year or two-year periods provided that there is a justifiable
necessity for the delay.The time-bar under the new rule does not reduce the periods under Article 90 of the
Revised Penal Code, a substantive law. It is but a limitation of the right of the State to revive a criminal
case against the accused after the Information had been filed but subsequently provisionally dismissed with
the express consent of the accused. Upon the lapse of the timeline under the new rule, the State is
presumed, albeit disputably, to have abandoned or waived its right to revive the case and prosecute the
accused. The dismissal becomesipso factopermanent. He can no longer be charged anew for the same crime
or another crime necessarily included therein. He is spared from the anguish and anxiety as well as the
expenses in any new indictments. The State may revive a criminal case beyond the one-year or two-year
periods provided that there is a justifiable necessity for the delay.By the same token, if a criminal case is
dismissed on motion of the accused because the trial is not concluded within the period therefor, the
prescriptive periods under the Revised Penal Code are not thereby diminished. But whether or not the
prosecution of the accused is barred by the statute of limitations or by the lapse of the time-line under the
new rule, the effect is basically the same.
Same; Same; Same; Same; Same; Retrospective Application of Procedural Laws; Statutory
Construction; Words and Phrases; Statutes regulating the procedure of the courts will be construed as
applicable to actions pending and undetermined at the time of their passage; As applied to criminal law,
procedural law provides or regulates the steps by which one who has committed a crime is to be punished.
The Court agrees with the respondent that procedural laws may be applied retroactively. As applied to
criminal law, procedural law provides or regulates the steps by which one who has committed a crime is to
be punished. InTan, Jr. v. Court of Appeals, this Court held that: Statutes regulating the procedure of the
courts will be construed as applicable to actions pending and undetermined at the time of their passage.
Procedural laws are retroactive in that sense and to that extent. The fact that procedural statutes may
somehow affect the litigants rights may not preclude their retroactive application to pending actions. The
retroactive application of procedural laws is not violative of any right of a person who may feel that he is
adversely affected. Nor is the retroactive application of procedural statutes constitutionally objectionable.
The reason is that as a general rule no vested right

272

272 SUPREME
COURT
REPORTS
ANNOTATED
People vs. Lacson

may attach to, nor arise from, procedural laws. It has been held that a person has no vested right in
any particular remedy, and a litigant cannot insist on the application to the trial of his case, whether civil or
criminal, of any other than the existing rules of procedure.
Same;Same;Same;Same;Same;Same;A construction of which a statute is fairly susceptible is favored,
which will avoid all objectionable, mischievous, indefensible, wrongful, and injurious consequencesthe
Court should not adopt an interpretation of a statute which produces absurd, unreasonable, unjust, or
oppressive results if such interpretation could be avoided.It further ruled therein that a procedural law
may not be applied retroactively if to do so would work injustice or would involve intricate problems of due
process or impair the independence of the Court. In aper curiamdecision inCipriano v. City of Houma, the
United States Supreme Court ruled that where a decision of the court would produce substantial inequitable
results if applied retroactively, there is ample basis for avoiding the injustice of hardship by a holding of
nonretroactivity. A construction of which a statute is fairly susceptible is favored, which will avoid all
objectionable, mischievous, indefensible, wrongful, and injurious consequences. This Court should not adopt
an interpretation of a statute which produces absurd, unreasonable, unjust, or oppressive results if such
interpretation could be avoided. Time and again, this Court has decreed that statutes are to be construed in
light of the purposes to be achieved and the evils sought to be remedied. In construing a statute, the reason
for the enactment should be kept in mind and the statute should be construed with reference to the intended
scope and purpose.
Same;Same;Same;Same;Same;Same;Constitutional Law;Remedial legislation, or procedural rule, or
doctrine of the Court designed to enhance and implement the constitutional rights of parties in criminal
proceedings may be applied retroactively or prospectively depending upon several factors, such as the history
of the new rule, its purpose and effect, and whether the retrospective application will further in operation, the
particular conduct sought to be remedied and the effect thereon in the administration of justice and of
criminal laws in particular.Remedial legislation, or procedural rule, or doctrine of the Court designed to
enhance and implement the constitutional rights of parties in criminal proceedings may be applied
retroactively or prospectively depending upon several factors, such as the history of the new rule, its purpose
and effect, and whether the retrospective application will further its operation, the particular conduct
sought to be remedied and the effect thereon in the administration of justice and of criminal laws in
particular. In aper curiamdecision inStefano v. Woods, the United States Supreme Court catalogued the
factors in determining whether a new rule or doctrine enunciated by the High Court should be given
retrospective or prospective effect: (a) the purpose to be served by the new standards, (b) the extent of

273

VOL. 400, 273


APRIL 1, 2003

People vs. Lacson

the reliance by law enforcement authorities on the old standards, and (c) the effect on the
administration of justice of a retroactive application of the new standards.
Same;Same;Same;Same;In fixing the time-bar, the Court balanced the societal interests and those of
the accused for the orderly and speedy disposition of criminal cases with minimum prejudice to the State and
the accused, taking into account the substantial rights of both the State and the accused to due process; The
time-bar fixed by the Court must be respected unless it is shown that the period is manifestly short or
insufficient that the rule becomes a denial of justice.In the new rule in question, as now construed by the
Court, it has fixed a time-bar of one year or two years for the revival of criminal cases provisionally
dismissed with the express consent of the accused and witha priorinotice to the offended party. The time-
bar may appear, on first impression, unreasonable compared to the periods under Article 90 of the Revised
Penal Code. However, in fixing the time-bar, the Court balanced the societal interests and those of the
accused for the orderly and speedy disposition of criminal cases with minimum prejudice to the State and
the accused. It took into account the substantial rights of both the State and of the accused to due process.
The Court believed that the time limit is a reasonable period for the State to revive provisionally dismissed
cases with the consent of the accused and notice to the offended parties. The time-bar fixed by the Court
must be respected unless it is shown that the period is manifestly short or insufficient that the rule becomes
a denial of justice. The petitioners failed to show a manifest shortness or insufficiency of the time-bar.
Same;Same;Same;Same;The new rule was conceptualized primarily to enhance the administration of
the criminal justice system and the rights to due process of the State and the accused by eliminating the
deleterious practice of trial courts of provisionally dismissing criminal cases on motion of either the
prosecution or the accused or jointly, either with no time-bar for the revival thereof or with a specific or
definite period for such revival by the public prosecutor.The new rule was conceptualized by the Committee
on the Revision of the Rules and approved by the Courten bancprimarily to enhance the administration of
the criminal justice system and the rights to due process of the State and the accused by eliminating the
deleterious practice of trial courts of provisionally dismissing criminal cases on motion of either the
prosecution or the accused or jointly, either with no time-bar for the revival thereof or with a specific or
definite period for such revival by the public prosecutor. There were times when such criminal cases were no
longer revived or refiled due to causes beyond the control of the public prosecutor or because of the
indolence, apathy or the lackadaisical attitude of public prosecutors to the prejudice of the State and the
accused despite the mandate to public prosecutors and trial judges to expedite criminal proceedings.

274

274 SUPREME
COURT
REPORTS
ANNOTATED

People vs. Lacson

Same; Same; Same; Same; Speedy Disposition of Cases; It is almost a universal experience that the
accused welcomes delay as it usually operates in his favor, especially if he greatly fears the consequences of
his trial and conviction; The longer the lapse of time from the dismissal of the case to the revival thereof, the
more difficult it is to prove the crime.It is almost a universal experience that the accused welcomes delay
as it usually operates in his favor, especially if he greatly fears the consequences of his trial and conviction.
He is hesitant to disturb the hushed inaction by which dominant cases have been known to expire. The
inordinate delay in the revival or refiling of criminal cases may impair or reduce the capacity of the State to
prove its case with the disappearance or nonavailability of its witnesses. Physical evidence may have been
lost. Memories of witnesses may have grown dim or have faded. Passage of time makes proof of any fact
more difficult. The accused may become a fugitive from justice or commit another crime. The longer the
lapse of time from the dismissal of the case to the revival thereof, the more difficult it is to prove the crime.
Same; Same; Same; Same; In the long run, a mere provisional dismissal of a criminal case may
diminish the capacity of the accused to defend himself and thus skew the fairness of the entire criminal
justice system; The time-bar under the new rule was fixed by the Court to excise the malaise that plagued the
administration of the criminal justice system for the benefit of the State and the accusednot for the accused
only.On the other side of the fulcrum, a mere provisional dismissal of a criminal case does not terminate a
criminal case. The possibility that the case may be revived at any time may disrupt or reduce, if not derail,
the chances of the accused for employment, curtail his association, subject him to public obloquy and create
anxiety in him and his family. He is unable to lead a normal life because of community suspicion and his
own anxiety. He continues to suffer those penalties and disabilities incompatible with the presumption of
innocence. He may also lose his witnesses or their memories may fade with the passage of time. In the long
run, it may diminish his capacity to defend himself and thus skew the fairness of the entire criminal justice
system. The time-bar under the new rule was fixed by the Court to excise the malaise that plagued the
administration of the criminal justice system for the benefit of the State and the accused, not for the accused
only.
Same;Same;Same;Same;To apply the time-bar retroactively so that the two-year period commenced to
run on 31 March 1999 when the public prosecutor received his copy of the resolution of the trial court
dismissing the criminal cases is inconsistent with the intendment of the new rule which only took effect on 1
December 2000the period from 1 April 1999 to 30 November 2000 should be excluded in the computation of
the two-year period because the rule prescribing it was not yet in effect at the time and the State could not be
expected to comply with the time-bar.The Court

275

VOL. 400, 275


APRIL 1, 2003

People vs. Lacson

agrees with the petitioners that to apply the time-bar retroactively so that the two-year period
commenced to run on March 31, 1999 when the public prosecutor received his copy of the resolution of Judge
Agnir, Jr. dismissing the criminal cases is inconsistent with the intendment of the new rule. Instead of
giving the State two years to revive provisionally dismissed cases, the State had considerably less than two
years to do so. Thus, Judge Agnir, Jr. dismissed Criminal Cases Nos. Q-99-81679 to Q-99-81689 on March
29, 1999. The new rule took effect on December 1, 2000. If the Court applied the new time-bar retroactively,
the State would have only one year and three months or until March 31, 2001 within which to revive these
criminal cases. The period is short of the two-year period fixed under the new rule. On the other hand, if the
time limit is applied prospectively, the State would have two years from December 1, 2000 or until
December 1, 2002 within which to revive the cases. This is in consonance with the intendment of the new
rule in fixing the time-bar and thus prevent injustice to the State and avoid absurd, unreasonable,
oppressive, injurious, and wrongful results in the administration of justice. The period from April 1, 1999 to
November 30, 1999 should be excluded in the computation of the two-year period because the rule
prescribing it was not yet in effect at the time and the State could not be expected to comply with the time-
bar. It cannot even be argued that the State waived its right to revive the criminal cases against respondent
or that it was negligent for not reviving them within the two-year period under the new rule. As the United
States Supreme Court said, per Justice Felix Frankfurter, inGriffin v. People: We should not indulge in the
fiction that the law now announced has always been the law and, therefore, that those who did not avail
themselves of it waived their rights . . . .
Same;Criminal Law;Due Process; For justice to prevail, the scales must balancejustice is not to be
dispensed for the accused alone, as the interests of society and the offended parties which have been wronged
must be equally considered.To require the State to give a valid justification as a conditionsine qua nonto
the revival of a case provisionally dismissed with the express consent of the accused before the effective date
of the new rule is to assume that the State is obliged to comply with the time-bar under the new rule before
it took effect. This would be a rank denial of justice. The State must be given a period of one year or two
years as the case may be from December 1, 2000 to revive the criminal case without requiring the State to
make a valid justification for not reviving the case before the effective date of the new rule. Although in
criminal cases, the accused is entitled to justice, and fairness, so is the State. As the United States Supreme
Court said, per Mr. Justice Benjamin Cardozo, inSnyder v. State of Massachussetts, the concept of fairness
must not be strained till it is narrowed to a filament. We are to keep the balance true. In Dimatulac v.
Villon, this Court emphasized that the judges action must not impair the substantial rights of the accused
nor the right of the State and

276
276 SUPREME
COURT
REPORTS
ANNOTATED

People vs. Lacson

offended party to due process of law. This Court further said: Indeed, for justice to prevail, the scales
must balance; justice is not to be dispensed for the accused alone. The interests of society and the offended
parties which have been wronged must be equally considered. Verily, a verdict of conviction is not
necessarily a denial of justice; and an acquittal is not necessarily a triumph of justice, for, to the society
offended and the party wronged, it could also mean injustice. Justice then must be rendered even-handedly
to both the accused, on one hand, and the State and offended party, on the other.

BELLOSILLO,J., Separate Opinion, Concurring:

Criminal Procedure;Provisional Dismissal;The concept of a provisional dismissal is subsumed in Art.


91 since in a provisional dismissal, proceedings necessarily terminate without the accused being convicted or
acquitted.Interestingly, a dividing line is drawn in the application of Arts. 90 and 91 ofThe Revised Penal
Code, and Sec. 8, Rule 117, of the2000 Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure, obviously in an attempt to lend
a delusive semblance of plausibility to its construction of Sec. 8. It is posited that Art. 91 and Sec. 8 operate
on different planes, so to speak, the vital distinction being that Sec. 8, Rule 117, contemplates a situation
where a case had already been filed and was provisionally dismissed. I do not agree. Article 91 of The
Revised Penal Codedistinctly speaks of prescription x x x shall be interrupted by the filing of the complaint
or information, and shall commence to run again when such proceedings terminate without the accused
being convicted or acquitted, or unjustifiably stopped for any reason not imputable to him. It can readily be
seen therefore that the concept of a provisional dismissal is subsumed in Art. 91 since in a provisional
dismissal, proceedings necessarily terminate without the accused being convicted or acquitted. Thus, to
construe and apply Sec. 8 in the manner suggested above would undeniably result in a direct and
irreconcilable conflict with Art. 91.
Same;Same;Statutory Construction;Judicial Legislation;The permanent dismissal of the case arising
from a provisional dismissal does not affect the right of the State to prosecute within the periods provided in
Art. 90 of the Revised Penal Code, for the prescriptive periods provided by law cannot be affected directly or
indirectly by any agreement or consent of the parties, much less be held hostage to procedural limitations
courts cannot, by an act of judicial legislationabridge, amend, alter, or nullify statutes.In a provisional
dismissal, the prosecution, the defense and the offended party, in effect, enter into a tacit agreement for a
temporary cessation of hostilities, i.e., to momentarily hold in abeyance the prosecution of the accused.
Paragraph 1 of Sec. 8 prescribes the requirements thereto: (a) consent of the accused, and (b) notice to the
offended party. It must be remembered however that permanent dismissal of a case is but an

277

VOL. 400, 277


APRIL 1, 2003

People vs. Lacson

offshoot of its previous provisional dismissal and the subsequent failure to revive within the time
frames set forth in Sec. 8. But does the permanent dismissal of the case arising from a provisional dismissal
affect the right of the State to prosecute within the periods provided in Art. 90 ofThe Revised Penal Code?
Certainly not, for the prescriptive periods prescribed by law cannot be affected directly or indirectly by any
agreement or consent of the parties, much less be held hostage to any procedural limitations. Verily, in
matters of public crimes which have a direct bearing on public interest, no agreements or personal
arrangements should be brought to bear upon the penal action. Courts cannotby an act of judicial
legislationabridge, amend, alter, or nullify statutes. We do not sit as councils of revision, empowered to
judicially reform or fashion legislation in accordance with our own notions of prudent public policy.
Certainly, lest we are prepared to ride roughshod over this prerogative of Congress, we cannot interfere with
the power of the legislature to surrender, as an act of grace, the right of the State to prosecute and to declare
the offense no longer subject to prosecution after certain periods of time as expressed in the statute.
Same;Same;Same;Same;Section 8, Rule 117 is nothing more than a rule of procedure, and as part of
the adjective law, it is only a means to an endan aid to substantive lawand should accordingly be
interpreted and applied in that concept; The policy embodied therein is simply to grant the accused
momentary relief from administrative restrictions occasioned by the filing of a criminal case against him.It
must be stressed that Sec. 8 is nothing more than a rule of procedure. As part of the adjective law, it is only
a means to an endan aid to substantive lawand should accordingly be interpreted and applied in that
concept. It was never meant to modify the settled provisions of law on the matter of prescription of offenses;
or to unduly curtail the right of the State to bring offenders before the bar of justice. These matters are best
left to the wisdom and sound judgment of the legislature. Clearly, the feverishly contested provision is
purely administrative or regulatory in character. The policy embodied therein is simply to grant the accused
momentary relief from administrative restrictions occasioned by the filing of a criminal case against him. He
is freed in the meantime of the dire consequences of his having been charged with a crime, and temporarily
restored to his immunities as a citizen, solely for purposes of government clearances. Section 8 imports no
intricate nor ornate legal signification that we need not discern from it a meaning that too far deviates from
what it actually purports to convey.
Same; Same; Double Jeopardy; The assent by the accused to the dismissal is the operative act that
precludes the effects of double jeopardy from setting in, so that despite the permanency of the dismissal due to
the lapse of the periods set forth in Sec. 8 of Rule 117, the refiling of a case under a new information does not
trample upon his venerable doctrine; The permanence of the dismissal should not be understood as the
harbinger of final

278

278 SUPREME
COURT
REPORTS
ANNOTATED

People vs. Lacson

and absolute liberation of the accused from future prosecution as it merely augurs the demise of the
unrevived cases but it does not prevent the state from exercising the right to reprosecute the accused within
the prescriptive period provided in Art. 90 of the Revised Penal Code.In contrast, provisional dismissal
under Sec. 8 of Rule 117 requires only the twin requirements of consent of the accused and notice to the
offended party. When a criminal case is provisionally dismissed upon the express application of the
defendant, the dismissal is not a bar to another prosecution for the same offense because his action in
having the case dismissed is a waiver of his constitutional prerogative of double jeopardy as he, in a manner
of speaking, throws a monkey wrench to the judicial process and prevents the court from rendering a
judgment of conviction against him. Jurisprudence has emphatically enunciated that double jeopardy cannot
be properly invoked where the case was dismissed with the express conformity of the accused. This much is
given as one of the requisites of double jeopardy,i.e., where the accused is acquitted or convicted, or the case
against him dismissed or otherwise terminated without his express consent. This assent by the accused to
the dismissal is the operative act that precludes the effects of double jeopardy from setting in, so that
despite the permanency of the dismissal due to the lapse of the periods set forth in Sec. 8 of Rule 117, the
refiling of a case under a new information does not trample upon this venerable doctrine. The permanence of
the dismissal should not be understood as the harbinger of final and absolute liberation of the accused from
future prosecution. It merely augurs the demise of the unrevived cases but it does not prevent the state from
exercising the right to re-prosecute the accused within the prescriptive period provided in Art. 90 of
theRevised Penal Code. With more weighty reason can we not accommodate respondent in his plea to avail
of the graces afforded by the doctrine since the records would show that he has yet to enter his plea to the
charges or that the trial on the merits has as yet to commence.
Same;Same;Same;Words and Phrases;A survey of jurisprudential antecedents reveal the distinction
between the revival and refiling of a new information.Respondent also fires a shot in the dark when he
suggests that there exists no marked difference between revival and refiling of a criminal case as in fact,
according to him, the two (2) concepts are synonymous and interchangeable. A survey of jurisprudential
antecedents reveals the distinction between the revival and refiling of a new information. The authorities
are unanimous in their recognition of the fact that a provisionally dismissed case can be revived as it does
not call for the operation of the rule on double jeopardy and that cases can also be refiled under a new
complaint or information for the same offense.
Same;Same;The interpretation of Sec. 8 of Rule 117 to the effect that in the event that the accused is
prosecuted anew with the same offense, albeit under an identical information, the new proceedings being
conducted

279

VOL. 400, 279


APRIL 1, 2003

People vs. Lacson

as if the accused has been charged afresh has in its favor the soundest policy considerations based no less
on the fundamental objectives of procedural rules.A question may be asked: Suppose that, the new
information is a verbatim reproduction of the information in the permanently dismissed case, can we not
now say that the newly filed case is a mere revival of the case previously dismissed? After all, stripped of
semantic finery, their being identical would lead to the impression, although erroneous, that one is but a
revival of the other. On the surface one may see no apparent difference between the two (2) sets of
Informations, but a subtle yet significant functional distinction in fact exists. Once a case is permanently
dismissed after the lapse of the prescriptive periods set forth in Sec. 8, the case is dead and, for all intents
and purposes, beyond resuscitation. All the on-going proceedings and those still to be had,e.g.,preliminary
investigation, arraignment, trial, etc., shall cease and be terminated. In the event however that the accused
is prosecuted anew with the same offense, albeit under an identical information, the previously terminated
proceedings will not be reactivated, the previous case having been set at rest; instead, new proceedings will
be conducted as if the accused has been charged afresh. To my mind, the foregoing interpretation of Sec. 8,
Rule 117 has in its favor the soundest policy considerations based no less on the fundamental objectives of
procedural rules.
Same;Same;When Sec. 8 speaks of issuance it should be construed not with reference to the date as
appearing in the resolution of dismissal but on the date it was actually delivered to the proper person and
received by him.Significantly also, I am at a loss as to why the Court of Appeals reckoned the two (2)-year
period from 29 March 1999 as the date of issuance of the resolution of dismissal. When Sec. 8 speaks of
issuance it should be construed not with reference to the date as appearing in the resolution of dismissal
but on the date it was actually delivered to the proper person and received by him. Otherwise, how would
the offended parties know that such resolution was issued as to reckon with the two (2)-year period after
which the provisional dismissal would be considered permanent?
Same;Same;Speedy Disposition of Cases;The right to speedy disposition of cases in unavailing in the
absence of any proceedings conducted before, during, or after trial.It goes without saying therefore that the
right to speedy disposition of cases is unavailing in the absence of any proceedings conducted before, during,
or after, trial. Significantly, there is no precedent, for indeed there is none, to support the novel conclusion
that even after the dismissal of the cases, an accused may still invoke the constitutional guarantee.

280

280 SUPREME
COURT
REPORTS
ANNOTATED

People vs. Lacson

Same;Same;Same;Four-Factor Balancing Test to determine whether an accused has been denied the
right to speedy disposition of his case.But even if we proceed on the assumption that respondent may
rightfully invoke the speedy disposition clause for the respondent, still I find that the circumstances of this
case fail, to measure up to the criteria set forth under the Balancing Test. In Caballero v. Alfonso we
adopted a four-factorBalancing Testto determine whether an accused has been denied the constitutional
right to speedy disposition of his case,i.e., (a) length of the delay, (b) reason for the delay, (c) assertion of the
right or failure to assert it, and, (d) prejudice caused by the delay.
Same;Same;Same;The species of government delay that are anathema to the right to speedy disposition
of cases are those which are purposely or negligently employed to harm or gain impermissible advantage over
the accused at the trial.The government may delay for a variety of reasons such as to gain time in which to
strengthen and document its case. The government may also delay, not with the view of ensuring conviction
of the accused, but because the government lacks sufficient resources to move quickly. The species of
governmental delay that are anathema to the right to speedy disposition of cases are those which are
purposely or negligently employed to harm or gain impermissible advantage over the accused at the trial.
The reason is that, in such circumstance, the fair administration of justice is imperiled.

PUNO, J., Dissenting Opinion:

Criminal Procedure;Provisional Dismissals;In promulgating the new rule embodied in Sec. 8, Rule 117
of the 2000 Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, the Court en banc struck a fine balance between the
sovereign right of the State to prosecute crimes and the inherent right of the accused to be protected from the
unnecessary burdens of criminal litiga-tionthe timeline within which provisionally dismissed cases can be
revived forms the crux of the delicate balance.It was this undesirable situation that the Committee on
Revision of the Rules of Court addressed when it designed Section 8, Rule 117 of the 2000 Revised Rules of
Criminal Procedure. The Courten bancfound no difficulty appreciating the rationale of the new rule for it
approved the rule with but a minor amendment. The amendment lengthened the time within which the
prosecution can revive the provisionally dismissed case in offenses punishable by more than six (6) years of
imprisonment. The time to revive was stretched to two (2) years after a survey was made of offenses
punishable by imprisonment of six (6) years or more and a study of its probable adverse impact on the
government campaign against crimes. In promulgating the new rule, the Courten bancstruck a fine balance
between the sovereign right of the State to prosecute crimes and the inherent right of the accused to be
protected from the unnecessary burdens of criminal litigation. The timeline

281
VOL. 400, 281
APRIL 1, 2003

People vs. Lacson

within which provisionally dismissed cases can be revived forms the crux of the delicate balance.
Same;Same;Speedy Disposition of Cases;Section 8, Rule 117 is a rule that gives an accused a new right
that is distinct from, among others, the right to speedy trial and the right against double jeopardy.Section
8, Rule 117 is a rule that gives an accused a new right that is distinct from, among others, the right to
speedy trial and the right against double jeopardy. The resistance to recognize this new right and the effort
to unnecessarily link it with other rights of the accused are the main causes of its misunderstanding. Thus,
section 8, Rule 117 should not be confused with Rule 119 which is the rule of procedure that implements the
constitutional right of an accused to speedy trial. The confusion can obliterate the difference in the time
requirements in the two rules. The right to speedy trial is determined by a flexible time standard. We
resolve claims of denial of the right to speedy trial by balancing the following factors: (1) the duration of the
delay, (2) the reason thereof, (3) the assertion of the right or failure to assert it by the accused, and (4) the
prejudice caused by such delay. On the other hand, the timeline that restricts the right of the State to revive
a case in a section 8, Rule 117 situation is inflexible if it is shown that it has slept on its right without
reason. Section 8, Rule 117 should not also be confused with section 3(i), Rule 117 which is the rule of
procedure that protects the constitutional right of an accused against double jeopardy. Again, the two rules
are distinct, hence, it is not proper to require the element of prior plea in double jeopardy cases in a section
8, Rule 117 situation. In fine, section 8, Rule 117 is a new rule that is complete by itself and should not be
construed in light of rules implementing other rights of an accused.
Same;Same;Same;Prescription;The permanent dismissal of an unrevived case under Section 8, Rule
117 does not unduly shorten the prescriptive period of offenses provided for in Articles 90 and 91 of the
Revised Penal Codethe new rule merely regulates the conduct of the prosecution of an offense once the case
is filed in court.The permanent dismissal of an unrevived case under section 8, Rule 117 does not unduly
shorten the prescriptive period of offenses provided for in Articles 90 and 91 of the Revised Penal Code. The
new rule merely regulates the conduct of the prosecution of an offense once the case is tiled in court. It
cannot be doubted that after a case is filed in court, its conduct by the prosecution can be regulated by rules
of procedure which are within the exclusive power of this Court to promulgate. More specifically, the new
rule regulates the time when the State must complete the prosecution of a pending case after its provisional
dismissal. It provides the consequence when the State sleeps on its duty to revive a provisionally dismissed
case. If the State loses the right, to continue the prosecution of an offense already filed in court, it is not
because the rule has amended the prescriptive period of

282

282 SUPREME
COURT
REPORTS
ANNOTATED

People vs. Lacson

the crime provided by our substantive law. Rather, it is a simple case where the State forfeited its right
to prosecute by its own inaction, an inaction that unless justified cannot be allowed to further impair the
rights of an accused.
Same;Same;Same;Same;The permanent dismissal under Section 8, Rule 117 precludes the prosecution
of the accused for the same offense under a new informationthe provision changed the old rule that
dismissals which are provisional in character lack the imprimatur of finality.The permanent dismissal
under section 8, Rule 117 precludes the prosecution of the accused for the same offense under a new
information. Again, it is true that we have rulings to the effect that a trial court may, in the interest of
justice, dismiss a case provisionally but without prejudice to reinstating it before the order of dismissal
becomes final or without prejudice to the subsequent filing of a new information for the same offense. But
note should be taken of the important fact that these rulings were handed down before Section 8, Rule 117
came into being. Section 8, Rule 117 changed the old rule that dismissals which are provisional in character
lack the imprimatur of finality, hence, they do not bar the revival of the offense charged or the filing of a
new information for the same offense. The old rule was precisely jettisoned by the Committee and by this
Court because of its unfairness to the accused. Again, I respectfully submit that the new rule would be
useless if it would leave unfettered the discretion of the prosecutor in reviving the same offense under the fig
leaf of a new information.
Same; Same; Same; Words and Phrases; Revival means reanimating or renewing the case that has
become dormant because of its provisional dismissal.I do not share the thesis that the re-filing of Criminal
Cases Nos. Q-01-101102 to Q-01-101112 is not a revival of Criminal Cases Nos. Q-99-81679 to Q-99-81689.
There cannot be any dispute on the meaning of the word revival in section 8, Rule 117. Revival means
reanimating or renewing the case that has become dormant because of its provisional dismissal. The cases
that were provisionally dismissed for lack of probable cause refer to the eleven (11) Informations for murder
filed against the respondent, et al., allegedly for the summary execution of some members of theKuratong
Baleleng gang. Without doubt, these are the same cases re-filed against the respondent after another
preliminary investigation with the principal difference that respondent is now charged as a principal and no
longer as an accessory.
Same;Same;Same;The prohibition against revival is not a free gift by the State to an accusedthe right
against revival is the result of a tradeoff of valuable rights for the accused can exercise it only if he surrenders
his right to an early permanent dismissal of the case against him due to the inability of the State to prosecute.
I respectfully submit that the test to

283

VOL. 400, 283


APRIL 1, 2003

People vs. Lacson

determine whether a case can be revived is not whether a new preliminary investigation has been
conducted by the prosecution. That test, if allowed, would torture out of context the intent of section 8, Rule
117. The new rule speaks of case and offenses. It clearly prohibits the revival of the case against an
accused which has been provisionally dismissed for failure of the State to continue its prosecution without
any justification. I like to underscore that the prohibition against revival is not a free gift by the State to an
accused. The right against revival is the result of a trade-off of valuable rights for the accused can exercise it
only if he surrenders his right to an early permanent dismissal of the case against him due to the inability of
the State to prosecute. In so doing, the accused suffers a detriment for he gives the State one to two years to
revive a case which has already been frozen for failure to prosecute. During this waiting period, the accused
cannot move to dismiss the charge against him while the State can locate its missing witnesses, secure them
if they are threatened and even gather new evidence. In exchange for this period of grace given to the State,
the rule sets a timeline for the prosecutors to revive the case against the accused. The timeline is fixed for
the accused has suffered an indubitable detriment and the trade-off for this detriment is the duty imposed
on the prosecution either to continue or discontinue with the case within the 1 or 2-year grace period. We
cannot allow the undue extension of this detriment unless the State can show compelling reasons to justify
its failure to prosecute. The open-ended practice under the old rule which makes provisional dismissal
permanently provisional is precisely the evil sought to be extirpated by Section 8, Rule 117.
Same; Same; The new rule was designed to achieve one of the end-goals of the criminal processto
minimize the burdens of accusation and litigation.I wish to stress the bigger reason for Section 8, Rule
117. The new rule does enhance the constitutional rights of an accused to speedy trial and speedy
disposition of the case(s) against him but it is much more than that. More broadly, the new rule was
designed to achieve one of the end-goals of the criminal processto minimize the burdens of accusation and
litigation. This end-goal is well explained by La Fave and Israel, conceded authorities in Criminal
Procedure,viz: (d) Minimizing the Burdens of Accusation and Litigation. Even though eventually acquitted,
an innocent person charged with a crime suffers substantial burdens. The accusation casts a doubt on the
persons reputation that is not easily erased. Frequently, the public remembers the accusation and still
suspects guilt even after an acquittal. Moreover, even where an acquittal is accepted as fully vindicating the
accused, it hardly remedies other costs suffered in the course of gaining that verdict. The period spent by the
accused awaiting trial commonly is filled with a substantial degree of anxiety and insecurity that disrupts
the daily flow of his life. That disruption is, of course, even greater if he is incarcerated pending trial. The

284

284 SUPREME
COURT
REPORTS
ANNOTATED

People vs. Lacson

accused also must bear the expense and ordeal of the litigation process itself.
Same;Same;Constitutional Law;Supreme Court;Section 8, Rule 117 was promulgated in the exercise of
the expanded power of the Supreme Court to enact rules of procedure under Section 5(5) of the 1987
Constitution.Let me also underscore that Section 8, Rule 117 was promulgated in the exercise of the
expanded power of this Court to enact rules of procedure under Section 5(5) of the 1987 Constitution,viz: x x
x This provision expanded the rule making power of this Court for (1) it extended its power not only to cover
pleading, practice and procedure in all courts, admission to the practice of law and the integration of the Bar
but also to encompass the protection and enforcement of constitutional rights and legal assistance to the
underprivileged, and (2) it no longer contained the restriction that said rules may be repealed, altered or
supplemented by the Batasang Pambansa. As aforediscussed, section 8, Rule 117 was designed to diminish
the burdens of litigation by fixing a timeline on provisional dismissal of cases beyond which they cannot be
revived. The regulation of the conduct of a criminal case once filed in court, including the time within which
it must be terminated, is inherent in judicial power. Section 8, Rule 117 is an exercise of this power, a power
that this Court has exercised without any question since the 1935 Constitution.
Same; Same; Motion for Judicial Determination of Probable Cause; Pleadings and Practice; For all
intents and purposes, a motion for judicial determination of probable cause can be treated as a motion to
dismiss for lack of probable cause.In ruling that the dismissal of the cases against respondent Lacson did
not bear his consent, the ponencia states that x x x respondent merely filed a motion for judicial
determination of probable cause x x x. It emphasizes that no motion for provisional dismissal of the cases
was filed. With due respect, the effort to distinguish the two motions is futile for it is seeking a distinction
when there is no difference. The essence of both motions is the lack of probable cause of the Informations. If
the motions succeed, there is only one course of action for the judge to taketo dismiss the Informations.
For all intents and purposes, a motion for judicial determination of probable cause can be treated as a
motion to dismiss for lack of probable cause.
Same;Same;Evidence;Admissions; The evidentiary rule on admission governs the act, declaration or
omission of a party as to a relevant fact and should not be applied on arguments of parties.
Theponenciathen cites certain judicial admissions by the counsel of respondent Lacson to the effect that
they did not move to dismiss the Informations against said respondent nor agree to their provisional
dismissal. Again with due respect, these so called admissions should be taken in their proper context.
These admissions were made in the course of the proceedings before the

285

VOL. 400, 285


APRIL 1, 2003

People vs. Lacson

Court of Appeals. The parties then were arguing that the re-filing of the cases will violate the rule on
double jeopardy. Naturally, respondent Lacson took the position that his right against double jeopardy
would be violated, hence, he was insisting that the dismissal of the cases was without his express consent.
Naturally too, the petitioner took the opposite view that the rule on double jeopardy would not be breached
because respondent consented to their dismissal. If the ponencia will hold respondent Lacson to his
admission that he did not consent to the dismissal of his cases, it should similarly hold petitioner to its
admission that respondent consented to the dismissal of the cases against him. In truth, the evidentiary
rule on admission governs the act, declaration or omission of a party as to a relevant fact and should not be
applied on arguments of parties. The issue in the case at bar is the nature and effect of a motion for judicial
determination of probable causei.e., whether or not it can be treated by a motion to dismiss on the ground
of lack of probable cause. The issue is basically legal, and should be resolved in accordance with our laws
and not on the basis of the arguments of parties which are often twisted to serve their peculiar interests.
Same; Same; Speedy Disposition of Cases; Prescription; Separation of Powers; Once the State files a
criminal case and involves the courts, the constitutional power of the Supreme Court to set the rules of
procedure for the prosecution of cases cannot be doubtedthe power belongs to the Court alone and there are
no uncertain umbras and penumbras which other branches of the government can claim.
The ponencia correctly holds that section 8, Rule 117 of the 2000 Rules of Criminal Procedure is not a
statute of limitations. As postulated in the precis, the one-year or two-year bar is a special procedural rule
qualifying the right of the State to prosecute cases already filed in court. The time-bar under the new rule
does not curtail the periods under Article 90 of the Revised Penal Code. The State retains the full period
under Article 90 of the Revised Penal Code within which to secure the necessary evidence and file the
appropriate criminal cases against the accused. But once the State files a criminal case and involves the
courts, the constitutional power of this Court to set the rules of procedure for the prosecution of cases cannot
be doubted. The power belongs to this Court alone and there are no uncertain umbras and penumbras in its
parameters which other branches of the government can claim.
Same;Same;Same;Same;No government can claim the right to prosecute at its perpetual pleasureit
cannot file a criminal case and sleep on it.The only conceivable exception to this general rule is if the
retroactive application of the procedural rule would not be feasible or would work injustice. As amply
demonstrated, however, the new rule will not impair the right of the State to prosecute criminals. The State
is not prejudiced by the time-bar if it can justify its delay in the prosecution of

286

286 SUPREME
COURT
REPORTS
ANNOTATED

People vs. Lacson


cases. If it cannot justify its delay, it cannot complain of unfairness. No government can claim the right
to prosecute at its perpetual pleasure. It cannot file a criminal case and sleep on it. It is self-evident that
inexcusable delays in the prosecution of a case deny an accused the right to a fair trial.

VITUG,J., Separate Opinion:

Criminal Procedure;Prescription, Separation of Powers;While Articles 90 and 91 of the Revised Penal


Code fix the period when the State must file a case against an accused after the discovery of the crime by the
offended party, Section 8, Rule 117 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure applies once an action has been
instituted.Prescription of crimes pertains to the loss or waiver by the State of its right to prosecute an act
prohibited and punished by law. It is the policy of the law that prosecutions should be prompt and that
statutes enforcing that promptitude should be maintained, these provisions being not merely acts of grace
but checks imposed by the State upon itself to exact vigilant activity from its subalterns and to secure for
criminal trials the best evidence that can be obtained. Once a criminal case is instituted, the issue on
prescription is addressed and the rule on prescription as a substantive provision would have then so served
its purpose. Thenceforth, assuming the timely filing of the case, the rules of procedure promulgated by the
Supreme Court must govern. In fine, while Article 90 and Article 91 of the Revised Penal Code fix the period
when the State must file a case against an accused after the discovery of the crime by the offended party,
Section 8, Rule 117, of the Rules of Criminal Procedure, however, applies once an action has been instituted.
The substantive provisions govern the institution of the case; the procedural rules steps in thereafter. The
Supreme Court is vested by the Constitution with the power to promulgate rules concerning x x x pleading,
practice, and procedure in all courts. The 1987 Charter not only has deleted the authority of the legislature
to repeal, alter or supplement the rules promulgated by the Court but it also expanded the Courts rule-
making power to cover the protection and enforcement of constitutional rights. Pursuant to this
Constitutional mandate, the Supreme Court has incorporated Section 8, Rule 117, in the Rules of Criminal
Procedure.

SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ,J.,Dissenting Opinion:

Constitutional Law;Statutes cannot be effective to place any limitation on a persons constitutional right,
and therefore they should not be regarded as a definition of the constitutional provision; Constitutions are not
adopted to control the rights and procedures of the moment but to establish broad principles of justice and
fair play for all time.Statutes cannot be effective to place any limitation on a persons constitutional right,
and therefore they should not be regarded as a definition of the constitutional

287

VOL. 400, 287


APRIL 1, 2003

People vs. Lacson

provision. It is thus conceivable that the constitutional provision is violated although its implementing
statute is not. This is because constitutions are not adopted to control the rights and procedures of the
moment but to establish broad principles of justice and fair play for all time.
Same;Speedy Disposition of Case;Speedy trial is said to constitute not a privilege, but a right, one that
is recognized as fundamental, one of the most basic and inviolable.Section 8 of Rule 117 was promulgated
pursuant to the constitutional guarantee of speedy trial and speedy disposition of cases. Clearly, there can
be no automatic inference that because Section 8 was found to be inapplicable, as claimed by petitioners,
respondents right to speedy trial and speedy disposition of his cases was not violated. Lest we miss the
forest for the trees, extreme caution should be exercised so that the general terms of the constitutional
guarantee would not be lost in the specific and detailed provisions of the rules promulgated for its
enforcement. Speedy trial is said to constitute not a privilege, but a right, one that is recognized as
fundamental. It is one of the most basic and inviolable rights. Thus, enshrined in our Constitution is the
mandate that in all criminal prosecution, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy trial. To expedite
not only the trial stage but also the disposition of the case itself, the framers of our Constitution saw the
need to further provide that all persons shall have the right to a speedy disposition of their cases before all
judicial, quasi-judicial or administrative bodies.
Same;Same;The mere passage of time is not sufficient to establish a denial of a right to a speedy trial,
but a lengthy delay, which is presumptively prejudicial, triggers the examination of other factors to determine
whether rights have been violated.Generally, the question of how much lapse of time is consistent with the
constitutional guarantee of speedy trial and speedy disposition of cases varies with the particular
circumstances. There is no constitutional basis for holding that the right to a speedy trial can be quantified
into a specified number of days and months. The mere passage of time is not sufficient to establish a denial
of a right to a speedy trial, but a lengthy delay, which is presumptively prejudicial, triggers the examination
of other factors to determine whether rights have been violated. In a case, it has been held that a delay of
more than one (1) year is presumptively prejudicial and shifts the burden to the government to justify the
delay. Certainly, the two-year delay here is prejudicial to respondent and it should be taken against
petitioners, they having failed to show any good cause or reason for such delay.
Same;Same;Criminal Procedure;The prosecution of an accused must not be made to depend on who is
perceived as an enemy by those who sit in power but on the sacrosanct duty of prosecutors to bring to justice
those believed to be offenders of the law while ensuring that their rights under the Constitution remain
inviolable.I believe that the prosecution

288

288 SUPREME
COURT
REPORTS
ANNOTATED

People vs. Lacson

now of respondent is tantamount to persecution. While it is the policy of this Court not to interfere in
the exercise of the prosecutors discretion, however, it cannot tolerate a refiling of new Informations, as in
this case, at the impulse of the officials in command. The prosecution of an accused must not be made to
depend on who is perceived as an enemy by those who sit in power but on the sacrosanct duty of prosecutors
to bring to justice those believed to be offenders of the law while ensuring that their rights under the
Constitution remain inviolable.
Same;Same;Due Process;Retrospective Application of Laws;Only private, and not public, rights may
become vested in a constitutional sensepublic rights may always be modified or annulled by subsequent
legislation without contravening the Due Process Clause.Moreover, it has been held that the constitutional
provision barring the passage of retroactive laws protects only the rights of citizens. Hence, a state may
constitutionally pass a retroactive law that impairs its own rights. Only private, and not public, rights may
become vested in a constitutional sense. Otherwise stated, there is a distinction between the effect to be
given a retroactive statute when it relates to private rights and when it relates to public rights. Public rights
may always be modified or annulled by subsequent legislation without contravening the Due Process
Clause.
Criminal Procedure;Provisional Dismissals; The Court should settle now and for all the most crucial
issue, i.e., whether or not the provisional dismissal contemplated in the Rule shall become permanent two
years after the issuance of the order and thus constitutes a bar to a subsequent prosecution for the same
offense.While I concurred in our challenged Resolution that this case should be remanded to the trial court
to enable it to determine whether the requirements of Section 8, Rule 117 have been complied with,
however, I still believe that we should settle now once and for all the most crucial issue,i.e., whether or not
the provisional dismissal contemplated in the Rule shall become permanent two years after the issuance of
the order and thus constitutes a bar to a subsequent prosecution for the same offense. To evade it now is to
delay the day of reckoning and to put the legal community in a quandary.
Same;Same;We cannot disregard the reality that after the lapse of a certain period, the reliability of a
trial is compromised in ways that neither party can prove or, for that matter, identify.Prejudice to the
rights of the accused intensifies over time. While it is true that a mere mathematical reckoning of the time
involved is insufficient to determine a violation of an accuseds right to speedy trial, we cannot disregard the
reality that after the lapse of a certain period, the reliability of a trial is compromised in ways that neither
party can prove or, for that matter, identify. It bears stressing that the mere passage of time impairs
memories, causes evi-

289

VOL. 400, 289


APRIL 1, 2003

People vs. Lacson

dence to be lost, deprives the accused of witnesses, and interferes with his ability to defend himself.
Now, these nuisances may be avoided if we are to give full effect to Section 8 and consider the permanent
dismissal contemplated therein as a bar to a subsequent prosecution of the accused for the same offense. Not
only will it be in consonant with the cardinal principle of justice and fairness, it will also provide force to the
rule.

MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION of a decision of the Supreme Court.

The facts are stated in the resolution of the Court.


The Solicitor Generalfor petitioners.
Philip Sigfrid A. Fortun,Gilbert V. SantosandFloresita C. Ganfor respondent P. Lacson.

RESOLUTION

CALLEJO, SR.,J.:
1 2
Before the Court is the petitioners Motion for Reconsideration of the Resolution dated May 28,
2002, remanding this case to the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Quezon City, Branch 81, for the
determination of several factual issues relative to the application of Section 8 of Rule 117 of the
Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure on the dismissal of Criminal Cases Nos. Q-99-81679 to Q-
99-81689 filed against the respondent and his co-accused with the said court. In the aforesaid
criminal cases, the respondent and his co-accused were charged with multiple murder for the
shooting and killing of eleven male persons identified as Manuel Montero, a former Corporal of
the Philippine Army, Rolando Siplon, Sherwin Abalora, who was 16 years old, Ray Abalora, 3
who
was 19 years old, Joel Amora, Jevy Redillas, Meleubren Sorronda, who was 14 years old, Pacifico
Montero, Jr., of the 44th Infantry Batallion of the Philippine Army, Welbor Elcamel, SPO1
Carlito Alap-ap of the Zamboanga PNP, and Alex Neri, former Corporal of the 44th Infantry
Batallion of the Philippine Army, bandied as members of theKura-
_______________
1Rollo,
Vol. II, pp. 1203-1228.
2Id.,at
pp. 1183-1200.
3NBI Report, pp. 309 and 311.

290

290 SUPREME COURT


REPORTS
ANNOTATED
People vs. Lacson
4
tong BalelengGang. The respondent opposed petitioners motion for reconsideration.
The Court ruled in the Resolution sought to be reconsidered that the provisional dismissal of
Criminal Cases Nos. Q-99-81679 to Q-99-81689 were with the express consent of the respondent
as he himself moved for said provisional dismissal when he filed his motion for judicial
determination of probable cause and for examination of witnesses. The Court also held therein
that although Section 8, Rule 117 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure could be given
retroactive effect, there is still a need to determine whether the requirements for its application
are attendant. The trial court was thus directed to resolve the following:
. . . (1) whether the provisional dismissal of the cases had the express consent of the accused; (2) whether it
was ordered by the court after notice to the offended party; (3) whether the 2-year period to revive it has
already lapsed; (4) whether there is any justification for the filing of the cases beyond the 2-year period; (5)
whether notices to the offended parties were given before the cases of respondent Lacson were dismissed by
then Judge Agnir; (6) whether there were affidavits of desistance executed by the relatives of the three (3)
other victims; (7) whether the multiple murder cases against respondent Lacson are being revived within or
beyond the 2-year bar.

The Court further held that the reckoning date of the two-year bar had to be first determined
whether it shall be from the date of the order of then Judge Agnir, Jr. dismissing the cases, or
from the dates of receipt thereof by the various offended parties, or from the date of effectivity of
the new rule. According to the Court, if the cases were revived only after the two-year bar, the
State must be given the opportunity to justify its failure to comply with the said time-bar. It
emphasized that the new rule fixes a time-bar to penalize the State for its inexcusable delay in
prosecuting cases already filed in court. However, the State is not precluded from presenting
compelling reasons to justify the revival of cases beyond the two-year bar.
In support of their Motion for Reconsideration the petitioners contend that (a) Section 8, Rule
117 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure is not applicable to Criminal Cases Nos. Q-99-
81679

_______________
4Rollo, Vol. II, pp. 1237-1267.

291

VOL. 400, APRIL 1, 291


2003
People vs. Lacson
to Q-99-81689; and (b) the time-bar in said rule should not be applied retroactively.
The Court shall resolve the issuesseriatim.

I. SECTION 8, RULE 117 OF THE


REVISED RULES OF CRIMINAL
PROCEDURE IS NOT APPLI
CABLE TO CRIMINAL CASES NOS.
Q-99-81679 TO Q-99-81689.
The petitioners aver that Section 8, Rule 117 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure is not
applicable to Criminal Cases Nos. Q-99-81679 to Q-99-81689 because the essential requirements
for its application were not present when Judge Agnir, Jr., issued his resolution of March 29,
1999. Disagreeing with the ruling of the Court, the petitioners maintain that the respondent did
not give his express consent to the dismissal by Judge Agnir, Jr., of Criminal Cases Nos. Q-99-
81679 to Q-99-81689. The respondent allegedly admitted in his pleadings filed with the Court of
Appeals and during the hearing thereat that he did not file any motion to dismiss said cases, or
even agree to a provisional dismissal thereof. Moreover, the heirs of the victims were allegedly
not given prior notices of the dismissal of the said cases by Judge Agnir, Jr. According to the
petitioners, the respondents express consent to the provisional dismissal of the cases and the
notice to all the heirs of the victims of the respondents motion and the hearing thereon are
conditions sine qua non to the application of the time-bar in the second paragraph of the new
rule.
The petitioners further submit that it is not necessary that the case be remanded to the RTC
to determine whether private complainants were notified of the March 22, 1999 hearing on the
respondents motion for judicial determination of the existence of probable cause. The records
allegedly indicate clearly that only the handling city prosecutor was furnished a copy of the notice
of hearing on said motion. There is allegedly no evidence that private prosecutor Atty. Godwin
Valdez was properly retained and authorized by all the private complainants to represent them
at said hearing. It is their contention that Atty. Valdez merely identified the purported affidavits
of desistance and that he did not confirm the truth of the allegations therein.
292

292 SUPREME COURT


REPORTS
ANNOTATED
People vs. Lacson

The respondent, on the other hand, insists that, as found by the Court in its Resolution and
Judge Agnir, Jr. in his resolution, the respondent himself moved for the provisional dismissal of
the criminal cases. He cites the resolution of Judge Agnir, Jr. stating that the respondent and the
other accused filed separate but identical motions for the dismissal of the criminal cases should
the trial court find no probable cause for the issuance of warrants of arrest against them.
The respondent further asserts that the heirs of the victims, through the public and private
prosecutors, were duly notified of said motion and the hearing thereof. He contends that it was
sufficient that the public prosecutor was present during the March 22, 1999 hearing on the
motion for judicial determination of the existence of probable cause because criminal actions are
always prosecuted in the name of the People, and the private complainants merely prosecute the
civil aspect thereof.
The Court has reviewed the records and has found the contention of the petitioners
meritorious.
Section 8, Rule 117 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure reads:
Sec. 8.Provisional dismissal.A case shall not be provisionally dismissed except with the express consent of
the accused and with notice to the offended party.
The provisional dismissal of offenses punishable by imprisonment not exceeding six (6) years or a fine of
any amount, or both, shall become permanent one (1) year after issuance of the order without the case
having been revived. With respect to offenses punishable by imprisonment of more than six (6) years, their
provisional dismissal shall become permanent two (2) years after issuance of the order without the case
having been revived.

Having invoked said rule before the petitioners-panel of prosecutors and before the Court of
Appeals, the respondent is burdened to establish the essential requisites of the first paragraph
thereof, namely:

1. the prosecution with the express conformity of the accused or the accused moves for a
provisional (sin perjuicio) dismissal of the case; or both the prosecution and the accused
move for a provisional dismissal of the case;

293

VOL. 400, APRIL 1, 293


2003
People vs. Lacson

2. the offended party is notified of the motion for a provisional dismissal of the case;
3. the court issues an order granting the motion and dismissing the case provisionally;
4. the public prosecutor is served with a copy of the order of provisional dismissal of the
case.

The foregoing requirements are conditionssine qua nonto the application of the time-bar in the
second paragraph of the new rule. Theraison d etrefor the requirement of the express consent of
the accused to a provisional dismissal of a criminal case is to bar him from subsequently
asserting that the revival of the criminal case will 5place him in double jeopardy for the same
offense or for an offense necessarily included therein.
Although the second paragraph of the new rule states that the order of dismissal shall become
permanent one year after the issuance thereof without the case having been revived, the
provision should be construed to mean that the order of dismissal shall become permanent one
year after service
6
of the order of dismissal on the public prosecutor who has control of the
prosecution without the criminal case having been revived. The public prosecutor cannot be
expected to comply with the timeline unless he is served with a copy of the order of dismissal.
Express consent to a provisional dismissal is given either viva voce or in writing. It is a
positive, 7 direct, unequivocal consent requiring no inference or implication to supply its
meaning. Where the accused writes on the motion of a prosecutor for a provisional dismissal of
the case No objection or With my conformity,8 the writing amounts to express consent of the
accused to a provisional dismissal of the case.
9
The mere inaction or silence of the accused to a
motion for a provisional dismissal of the case or his failure to

_______________
5Regalado,Remedial Law Compendium, Vol. II, 9th Revised Edition, p. 442;People v. Bellosillo,9 SCRA 835(1963).
6Section 5, Rule 112 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure.
7People v. Hon. Vergara,221 SCRA 561(1993).
8People v. Hinaut,105 Phil. 303(1959).
9Pendatum v. Aragon,93 Phil. 798(1953);Caes v. Intermediate Appellate Court,179 SCRA 54(1989).

294

294 SUPREME COURT


REPORTS
ANNOTATED
People vs. Lacson
10
object to a provisional dismissal does not amount to express consent.
A motion of the accused
11
for a provisional dismissal of a case is an express consent to such
provisional dismissal. If a criminal case is provisionally dismissed with the express consent of
the accused, the case may be revived only within the periods provided in the new rule. On the
other hand, if a criminal case is provisionally dismissed without the express consent of the
accused or over his objection, the new rule would not apply. The case may be revived or refiled
even beyond the prescribed 12
periods subject to the right of the accused to oppose the same on the 13
ground of double jeopardy or that such revival or refiling is barred by the statute of limitations.
The case may be revived by the State within the time-bar either by the refiling of the
Information or by the filing of a new Information for the same offense or an14 offense necessarily
included therein. There would be no need of a new preliminary investigation. However, in a case
wherein after the provisional dismissal of a criminal case, the original witnesses of the
prosecution or some of them may have recanted their testimonies or may have died or may no
longer be available
15
and new witnesses for the State have emerged, a new preliminary
investigation must be conducted before an Information is refiled or a new Information is filed. A
new preliminary

_______________
10People v. Ylagan,58 Phil. 851(1933).
11Baesa v. Provincial Fiscal of Camarines Sur,37 SCRA 437(1971).
12Rule 117, Section 3(i) of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure.
13Benes v. United States of America, 276 F.2d 99 (1960).
14Sy v. Court of Appeals,113 SCRA 335(1982);Lava v. Gonzales,11 SCRA 650(1964);Bandiala v. CFI of Misamis

Occidental,35 SCRA 237(1970);Luciano v. Mariano,40 SCRA 187(1971);Teehankee v. Madayag,207 SCRA 134(1992).


15 SECTION 1. Preliminary investigation defined; when required.Preliminary investigation is an inquiry or

proceeding to determine whether there is sufficient ground to engender a well-founded belief that a crime has been
committed and the respondent is probably guilty thereof, and should be held for trial.
Except as provided in Section 7 of this Rule, a preliminary investigation is required to be conducted before the filing of
a complaint or information for an offense where the penalty prescribed by law is at least four (4) years, two (2) months
and one (1) day without regard to the fine. (Section 1, Rule 112, 2000 Rules of Criminal Procedure).

295

VOL. 400, APRIL 1, 295


2003
People vs. Lacson
investigation is also required if aside from the original accused, other persons are charged under
a new criminal complaint for the same offense or necessarily included therein; or if under a new
criminal complaint, the original charge has been upgraded; or if under a new criminal complaint,
the criminal liability of the accused is upgraded from that as an accessory to that as a principal.
The accused must be accorded the right to submit counter-affidavits and evidence. After all, the
fiscal is not called by the Rules of Court to wait in ambush; the role of a fiscal is not mainly to
prosecute16
but essentially to do justice to every man and to assist the court in dispensing that
justice.
In this case, the respondent has failed to prove that the first and second requisites of the first
paragraph of the new rule were present when Judge Agnir, Jr. dismissed Criminal Cases Nos. Q-
99-81679 to Q-99-81689. Irrefragably, the prosecution did not file any motion for the provisional
dismissal of the said criminal cases. For his part, the respondent merely filed a motion for judicial
determination of probable cause and for examination of prosecution witnesses alleging that under
Article 17III, Section 2 of the Constitution and the decision of this Court in Allado v.
Diokno, among other cases, there was a need for the trial court to conduct a personal
determination of probable cause for the issuance of a warrant of arrest against respondent and to
have the prosecutions witnesses summoned before the court for its examination. The respondent
contended therein that until after the trial court shall have personally determined the presence of
probable cause, no warrant of arrest should be issued against the respondent and if one had
already been issued, the warrant should be recalled by the trial court. He then prayed therein
that:

1) a judicial determination of probable cause pursuant to Section 2, Article III of the


Constitution be conducted by this Honorable Court, and for this purpose, an order be
issued directing the prosecution to present the private complainants and their witnesses
at a hearing scheduled therefor; and
2) warrants for the arrest of the accused-movants be withheld, or, if issued, recalled in the
meantime until the resolution of this incident.

_______________
16Bandiala v. Court, supra.
17232 SCRA 192(1994).

296

296 SUPREME COURT


REPORTS
ANNOTATED
People vs. Lacson
18
Other equitable reliefs are also prayed for.

The respondent did not pray for the dismissal, provisional or otherwise, of Criminal Cases Nos.
Q-99-81679 to Q-99-81689. Neither did he ever agree, impliedly or expressly, to a mere
provisional dismissal of the cases. In fact, in his reply filed with the Court of Appeals, respondent
emphasized that:
. . . An examination of the Motion for Judicial Determination of Probable Cause and for Examination of
Prosecution Witnesses filed by the petitioner and his other co-accused in the said criminal cases would show
that the petitioner did not pray for the dismissal of the case.On the contrary, the reliefs prayed for therein by
the petitioner are: (1) a judicial determination of probable cause pursuant to Section 2, Article III of the
Constitution; and (2) that warrants for the arrest of the accused be withheld, or if issued, recalled in the
meantime until the resolution of the motion. It cannot be said, therefore, that the dismissal of the case was
made with the consent of19the petitioner. A copy of the aforesaid motion is hereto attached and made integral
part hereof as Annex A.

During the hearing in the Court of Appeals on July 31, 2001, the respondent, through counsel,
categorically, unequivocally, and definitely declared that he did not file any motion to dismiss the
criminal cases nor did he agree to a provisional dismissal thereof, thus:

JUSTICE SALONGA:
And it is your stand
that the dismissal
made by the Court
was provisional in
nature?
ATTY. FORTUN:
It was in (sic) that
the accused did not
ask for it. What they
wanted at the onset
was simply a judicial
determination of
probable cause for
warrants of arrest
issued.Then Judge
Agnir, upon the
presentation by the
parties of their
witnesses,
particularly those
who had withdrawn
their affidavits,
made one further
conclusion that not
only was this case
lacking in probable
cause for purposes of
the issuance of an
arrest warrant but
also it did not justify
proceeding to trial.

_______________
18RTC Records, Vol. 10, p. 232.
19CA Rollo, p. 355.

297

VOL. 400, APRIL 1, 297


2003
People vs. Lacson

JUSTICE SALONGA:
And it is expressly
provided under
Section 8 that a case
shall not be
provisionally
dismissed except
when it is with the
express conformity of
the accused.
ATTY. FORTUN:
That is correct, Your
Honor.
JUSTICE SALONGA:
And with notice to
the offended party?
ATTY. FORTUN:
That is correct, Your
Honor.
JUSTICE SALONGA:
Was there an
express conformity
on the part of the
accused?
ATTY. FORTUN:
There was none,
Your Honor. We were
not asked to sign any
order, or any
statement, which
would normally be
required by the Court
on pre-trial or on
other matters,
including other
provisional
dismissal.My very
limited practice in
criminal courts, Your
Honor, had taught
me that a judge must
be very careful on
this matter of
provisional
dismissal. In fact
they ask the accused
to come forward, and
the judge himself or
herself ex plains the
implications of a
provisional
dismissal.
Pumapayag ka ba
ditto? Puwede bang
pumirma ka?
JUSTICE ROSARIO:
You were present
during the
proceedings?
ATTY. FORTUN:
Yes, Your Honor.
JUSTICE ROSARIO:
You represented the
petitioner in this
case?
ATTY. FORTUN:
That is correct, Your
Honor, And there
was nothing of that
sort which the good
Judge Agnir, who is
most knowledgeable
in criminal law, had
done in respect of
provisional dismissal
or the matter of Mr.
Lacson agreeing to
the provisional
dismissal of the case.
JUSTICE GUERRERO:
Now, you filed a
motion, the other
accused then filed a
motion for a judicial
determination of
probable cause?
ATTY. FORTUN:
Yes, Your Honor.

298

298 SUPREME COURT


REPORTS
ANNOTATED
People vs. Lacson

JUSTICE GUERRERO:
Did you make any
alternative prayer in
your motion that if
there is no probable
cause what should
the Court do?
ATTY. FORTUN:
That the arrest
warrants only be
withheld. That was
the only prayer that
we asked.In fact, I
have a copy of that
particular motion,
and if I may read my
prayer before the
Court, it said:
Wherefore, it is
respectfully prayed
that (1) a judicial
determination of
probable cause
pursuant to Section
2, Article III of the
Constitution be
conducted, and for
this purpose, an
order be issued
directing the
prosecution to
present the private
complainants and
their witnesses at
the scheduled
hearing for that
purpose; and (2) the
warrants for the
arrest of the accused
be withheld, or, if
issued, recalled in
the meantime until
resolution of this
incident.
JUSTICE GUERRERO:
There is no general
prayer for any
further relief?
ATTY. FORTUN:
There is, but it
simply says other
equitable reliefs are
prayed for.
JUSTICE GUERRERO:
Dont you surmise
Judge Agnir, now a
member of this
Court, precisely
addressed your
prayer for just and
equitable relief to
dismiss the case
because what would
be the net effect of a
situation where
there is no warrant
of arrest being
issued without
dismissing the case?
ATTY. FORTUN:
Yes, Your Honor. I
will not second say
(sic) yes the Good
Justice, but what is
plain is we did not
agree to the
provisional
dismissal, neither
were we asked to sign
any assent to the
provisional
dismissal.
JUSTICE GUERRERO:
If you did not agree
to the provisional
dismissal did you not
file any motion for
reconsideration of
the order of Judge
Agnir that the case
should be dismissed?
ATTY. FORTUN:
I did not, Your
Honor, because I
knew fully well at
that time that my
client had already
been arraigned, and
the arraignment was
valid as far as I was
concerned. So, the
dismissal, Your
Honor, by Judge
Agnir operated to
benefit me, and there
fore I did not take
any further step in
addition to rocking
the
299

VOL. 400, APRIL 1, 299


2003
People vs. Lacson

boat or clarifying the


matter further
because it probably
could prejudice the
interest of my client.
JUSTICE GUERRERO:
20
Continue.

In his memorandum in lieu of the oral arraignment filed with the Court of Appeals, the
respondent declared in no uncertain terms that:
Soon thereafter, the SC in early 1999 rendered a decision declaring the Sandiganbayan without jurisdiction
over the cases. The records were remanded to the QC RTC: Upon raffle, the case was assigned to Branch 81.
Petitioner and the others promptly filed a motion for judicial determination of probable cause (Annex B). He
asked that warrants for his arrest 21not be issued. He did not move for the dismissal of the Informations,
contrary to respondent OSGs claim.

The respondents admissions made in the course of the proceedings in the Court of Appeals are
binding and conclusive on him. The respondent is barred22from repudiating his admissions absent
evidence of palpable mistake in making such admissions.
To apply the new rule in Criminal Cases Nos. Q-99-81679 to Q-99-81689 would be to add to or
make exceptions from the new rule23which are not expressly or impliedly included therein. This
the Court cannot and should not do.
The Court also agrees with the petitioners contention that no notice of any motion for the
provisional dismissal of Criminal Cases Nos. Q-99-81679 to Q-99-81689 or of the hearing thereon
was served on the heirs of the victims at least three days before said hearing as mandated by
Rule 15, Section 4 of the Rules of Court. It must be borne in mind that in crimes involving private
interests, the new rule requires that the offended party or parties or the heirs of the victims must
be given adequatea priorinotice of any motion for the provisional dismissal of the criminal case.
Such notice may be served on the offended party or the heirs of the victim through the private
prosecutor, if there is one, or through the

_______________
20TSN,CA-G.R. SP No. 65034, July 31, 2001, pp. 13-18 (emphasis ours).
21CA Rollo, p. 378 (emphasis by respondent).
22Section 4, Rule 129 of the Revised Rules on Evidence.
23Vari v. Food Fair Stores, 13 A.L.R. 3d 844 (1964).

300

300 SUPREME COURT


REPORTS
ANNOTATED
People vs. Lacson

public prosecutor who in turn must relay the notice to the offended party or the heirs of the
victim to enable them to confer with him before the hearing or appear in court during the
hearing. The proof of such service must be shown during the hearing on the motion, otherwise,
the requirement of the new rule will become illusory. Such notice will enable the offended party
or the heirs of the victim the opportunity to seasonably and effectively comment on or object to
the motion on valid grounds, including: (a) the collusion between the prosecution and the accused
for the provisional dismissal of a criminal case thereby depriving the State of its right to due
process; (b) attempts to make witnesses unavailable; or (c) the provisional dismissal of the case
with the consequent release of the accused from detention would enable him to threaten and kill
the offended party or the other prosecution witnesses or flee from Philippine jurisdiction, provide
opportunity for the destruction or loss of the prosecutions physical and other evidence and
prejudice the rights of the offended party to recover on the civil liability of the accused by his
concealment or furtive disposition of his property or the consequent lifting of the writ of
preliminary attachment against his property.
In the case at bar, even if the respondents motion for a determination of probable cause and
examination of witnesses may be considered for the nonce as his motion for a provisional
dismissal of Criminal Cases Nos. Q-99-81679 to Q-99-81689, however, the heirs of the victims
were not notified thereof prior to the hearing on said motion on March 22, 1999. It must be
stressed that the respondent filed his motion only on March 17, 1999 and set it for hearing on
March 22, 1999 or barely five days from the filing thereof. Although the public prosecutor was
served with a copy of the motion, the records do not show that notices thereof were separately
given to the heirs of the victims or that subpoena were issued to and received by them, including
those who executed their affidavits of desistance
24
who were residents of Dipolog City or Pian,
Zamboanga del Norte or Palompon, Leyte. There is as well no proof in

_______________
24

Victims Address (per


Medico Legal
Report)
Manuel Pian,
Montero Zamboanga del
Norte
Rolando Miputak,
Siplon Dipolog City
Sherwin Miputak,
Abalora Dipolog City
Ray Miputak,
Abalora Dipolog City
Joel Osmina St.,
Amora Dipolog City
301

VOL. 400, APRIL 1, 301


2003
People vs. Lacson

the records that the public prosecutor notified the heirs of the victims of said motion or of the
hearing thereof
25
on March 22, 1999. Although Atty. Valdez entered his appearance as private
prosecutor, he did so only for some but not all the close kins of the victims, namely, Nenita Alap-
ap, Imelda Montero, Margarita Redillas, Rufino Siplon, 26
Carmelita Elcamel, Myrna Abalora, and
Leonora Amora
27
who (except for Rufino Siplon) executed their respective affidavits of
desistance. There was no appearance for the heirs of Alex Neri, Pacifico Montero, Jr., and
Meleubren Sorronda. There is no proof on record that all the heirs of the victims were served with
copies of the resolution of Judge Agnir, Jr. dismissing the said cases. In fine, there never was any
attempt on the part of the trial court, the public prosecutor and/or the private prosecutor to notify
all the heirs of the victims of the respondents motion and the hearing thereon and of the
resolution of Judge Agnir, Jr. dismissing said cases. The said heirs were thus deprived of their
right

_______________

Jevy Redillas Pian,


Zamboanga
del Norte
Welbor Bgy. Barra,
Elcamel Dipolog
City
Carlito Alap- Pian,
ap Zamboanga
del Norte
Pacifico Bo. Tinago,
Montero, Jr. Palumpon,
Leyte
Meleubren Miputak,
Sorronda Dipolog
City
Alex Neri No address
(Unidentified
Male in
Medico Legal
Report)
25RTC Records, Vol. IX,p.9.
26Rufino Siplon did not affix his signature on the Joint Affidavit of Desistance.
27
Affiants Address(per
Affidavit of
Desistance)
Myra UST Abono
Abalora Estaca,
(Mother of Dipolog City
Sherwin
Abalora
and Ray
Abalora)
Leonora Bgy. Sentral,
Amora Dipolog City
(Mother of
Joel
Amora)
Nenita 338 Sagin St.
Alap-ap cor. Amaga
(Wife of St., Poblacio
Carlito Santa, Pian,
Alap-ap) Zamboanga
del Norte
Imelda Poblacion
Montero Norte, Pian,
(Wife of Zamboanga
Manuel del Norte
Montero)
Carmelita Upper
Elcamel Dicayas,
(Wife of Dipolog City
Welbor
Elcamel)
Margarita Bgy.
Redillas Poblacion
(Mother of South, Pian,
Jevy Zamboanga
Redillas) del Norte

302

302 SUPREME COURT


REPORTS
ANNOTATED
People vs. Lacson
to be heard on the respondents motion and to protect their interests either in the trial court or in
the appellate court.
Since the conditionssine qua nonfor the application of the new rule were not present when
Judge Agnir, Jr. issued his resolution, the State is not barred by the time limit set forth in the
second paragraph of Section 8 of Rule 117 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure. The State
can thus revive or refile Criminal Cases Nos. Q-99-81679 to Q-99-81689 or file new Informations
for multiple murder against the respondent.

II. THE TIME-BAR IN SECTION 8,


RULE 117 OF THE REVISED
RULES OF CRIMINAL PROCE
DURE SHOULD NOT BE AP
PLIED RETROACTIVELY.
The petitioners contend that even on the assumption that the respondent expressly consented to
a provisional dismissal of Criminal Cases Nos. Q-99-81679 to Q-99-81689 and all the heirs of the
victims were notified of the respondents motion before the hearing thereon and were served with
copies of the resolution of Judge Agnir, Jr. dismissing the eleven cases, the two-year bar in
Section 8 of Rule 117 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure should be applied prospectively
and not retroactively against the State. To apply the time limit retroactively to the criminal cases
against the respondent and his co-accused would violate the right of the People to due process,
and unduly impair, reduce, and diminish the States substantive right to prosecute the accused
for multiple murder. They posit that under Article 90 of the Revised Penal Code, the State had
twenty years within which to file the criminal complaints against the accused. However, under
the new rule, the State only had two years from notice of the public prosecutor of the order of
dismissal of Criminal Cases Nos. Q-99-81679 to Q-99-81689 within which to revive the said cases.
When the new rule took effect on December 1, 2000, the State only had one year and three
months within which to revive the cases or refile the Informations. The period for the State to
charge respondent for multiple murder under Article 90 of the Revised Penal Code was
considerably and arbitrarily reduced. They submit that in case of conflict between the Revised
Penal Code and the new rule, the former should prevail. They also insist that the State had
consis-
303

VOL. 400, APRIL 1, 303


2003
People vs. Lacson

tently relied on the prescriptive periods under Article 90 of the Revised Penal Code. It was not
accorded a fair warning that it would28forever be barred beyond the two-year period by a
retroactive application of the new rule. Petitioners thus pray to the Court to set aside its
Resolution of May 28 2002.
For his part, the respondent asserts that the new rule under Section 8 of Rule 117 of the
Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure may be applied retroactively since there is no substantive
right of the State that may be impaired by its application to the criminal cases in question since
[t]he States witnesses were ready, willing and able to provide their testimony but the
prosecution failed
29
to act on these cases until it became politically expedient in April 2001 for
them to do so. According to the respondent, penal laws, either
30
procedural or substantive, may
be retroactively applied so long as they favor the accused. He asserts that the two-year period
commenced to run on March 29, 1999 and lapsed 31
two years thereafter was more than reasonable
opportunity for the State to fairly indict him. In any event, the State is given the right under the
Courts assailed Resolution to justify the filing of the Information in Criminal Cases Nos. 01-
101102 to 01-101112 beyond the time-bar under the new rule.
The respondent insists that Section 8 of Rule 117 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure
does not broaden the substantive right of double jeopardy to the prejudice of the State because
the prohibition against the revival of the cases within the one-year or two-year periods provided
therein is a legal concept distinct from the prohibition against the revival of a provisionally
dismissed case within the periods stated in Section 8 of Rule 117. Moreover, he claims that the
effects of a provisional dismissal under said rule do not modify or negate the operation of the
prescriptive period under Article 90 of the Revised Penal Code. Prescription under the Revised
Penal Code simply becomes irrelevant upon the application of Section 8, Rule 117 because a
complaint or information has already been filed32 against the accused, which filing tolls the
running of the prescriptive period under Article 90.

_______________
28Rollo, Vol. 2, pp. 1205-1214.
29Id., at p. 1240
30Id., at pp. 1241-1247.
31Id.
32Id., at pp. 1250-1251.

304

304 SUPREME COURT


REPORTS
ANNOTATED
People vs. Lacson

The Court agrees with the respondent that the new rule is not a statute of limitations. Statutes of
limitations are construed as acts of grace, and a surrender by the sovereign of its right to
prosecute or of its right to prosecute at its discretion. Such statutes are considered as equivalent
to acts of amnesty founded on the liberal theory that prosecutions should not be allowed to
ferment endlessly in the files of the government to explode only after witnesses and proofs
necessary for33
the protection of the accused have by sheer lapse of time passed beyond
availability. The periods
34
fixed under such statutes are jurisdictional and are essential elements
of the offenses covered.
On the other hand, the time-bar under Section 8 of Rule 117 is akin to a special procedural
limitation qualifying the right of the State to prosecute making the time-bar an essence of the
given right or as an inherent part thereof, so that
35
the lapse of the time-bar operates to extinguish
the right of the State to prosecute the accused.
The time-bar under the new36 rule does not reduce the periods under Article 90 of the Revised
Penal Code, a substantive law. It is but a limitation of the right of the State to revive a criminal
case against the accused after the Information had been filed but sub-

_______________
3322C.J.S., Criminal Law, 223, p. 574;United States v. Eliopoulos, 45 F. Supp. 777 (1942).
34Peoplev. Allen, 118 P.2d 927, 47 C.A.2d. 735.
35Carpenter v. Cox, 182 So. 813 (1939).
36ART. 90. Prescription of crime.Crimes punishable by death, reclusion perpetua or reclusion temporal shall
prescribe in twenty years.

Crimes punishable by other afflictive penalties shall prescribe in fifteen years.


Those punishable by a correctional penalty shall prescribe in ten years; with the exception of those punishable byarresto mayor,
which shall prescribe in five years.
The crime of libel or other similar offenses shall prescribe in one year.
The offenses of oral defamation and slander by deed shall prescribe in six months.
Light offenses prescribe in two months.
When the penalty fixed by law is a compound one, the highest penalty shall be made the basis of the application of the rules
contained in the first, second, and third paragraph of this article.

305

VOL. 400, APRIL 1, 305


2003
People vs. Lacson

sequently provisionally dismissed with the express consent of the accused. Upon the lapse of the
timeline under the new rule, the State is presumed, albeit disputably, to have abandoned or
waived its right to revive the case and prosecute the accused. The dismissal becomes ipso
factopermanent. He can no37 longer be charged anew for the same crime or another crime
necessarily included therein.
38
He is spared from the anguish and anxiety as well as the expenses
in any new indictments. The State may revive a criminal case beyond 39
the one-year or two-year
periods provided that there is a justifiable necessity for the delay. By the same token, if a
criminal case is dismissed on motion of the accused because the trial is not concluded within the
period therefor,
40
the prescriptive periods under the Revised Penal Code are not thereby
diminished. But whether or not the prosecution of the accused is barred by the statute of
limitations or by the lapse of the time-line under the new rule, the effect is basically the same. As
the State Supreme Court of Illinois held:
. . . This, in effect, enacts that when the specified period shall have arrived, the right of the state to
prosecute shall be gone, and the liability of the offender to be punishedto be deprived of his libertyshall
cease. Its terms not only strike down the right of action which the state had acquired by the offense, but also
remove the flaw which the crime had created in the offenders title to liberty. In this respect, its language
goes deeper than statutes barring civil remedies usually do. They expressly take away only the remedy by
suit, and that inferentially is held to abate the right which such remedy would enforce, and perfect the title
which such remedy would invade; but this statute is aimed directly at the very right which the state has
against the offenderthe right to punish, as the only 41
liability which the offender has incurred, and declares
that this right and this liability are at an end. . . .

The Court agrees with the respondent that procedural laws may be applied retroactively. As
applied to criminal law, procedural law provides or regulates the steps by which one who has
committed a

_______________
37People v. Allen, 14 NE2d 397;State v. Crawford, 98 SE 615.
38Republic v. Agoncillo,40 SCRA 579(1971).
39State of Kansas v. Ransom, 39 ALR 4th 892.
4022 C.J.S.,supra, at 575, citingPeople v. Di Franco, 184 N.Y.S.2d, p. 974, 17 Misc.2d 177.
41People v. Ross, 156 N.E. 303 (1927).

306
306 SUPREME COURT
REPORTS
ANNOTATED
People vs. Lacson
42
crime is to be punished. InTan, Jr. v. Court of Appeals, this Court held that:
Statutes regulating the procedure of the courts will be construed as applicable to actions pending and
undetermined at the time of their passage. Procedural laws are retroactive in that sense and to that extent.
The fact that procedural statutes may somehow affect the litigants rights may not preclude their retroactive
application to pending actions. The retroactive application of procedural laws is not violative of any right of
a person who may feel that he is adversely affected. Nor is the retroactive application of procedural statutes
constitutionally objectionable. The reason is that as a general rule no vested right may attach to, nor arise
from, procedural laws. It has been held that a person has no vested right in any particular remedy, and a
litigant cannot insist on the application to the trial of his case, whether civil or criminal, of any other than
the existing rules of procedure.

It further ruled therein that a procedural law may not be applied retroactively if to do so would
work injustice or would involve intricate problems of due process or 43
impair the independence of
the Court. In a per curiamdecision in Cipriano v. City of Houma, the United States Supreme
Court ruled that where a decision of the court would produce substantial inequitable results if
applied retroactively,
44
there is ample basis for avoiding the injustice of hardship by a holding of
nonretroactivity. A construction of which a statute is fairly susceptible is favored, which 45
will
avoid all objectionable, mischievous, indefensible, wrongful, and injurious consequences. This
Court should not adopt an interpretation of a statute which produces 46
absurd, unreasonable,
unjust, or oppressive results if such interpretation could be avoided. Time and again, this Court
has decreed that statutes are to be construed in light of the purposes to be achieved and the evils
sought to be remedied. In construing a statute, the reason for the enactment should be kept 47
in
mind and the statute should be construed with reference to the intended scope and purpose.

_______________
42G.R. No. 136368, January 16, 2002, p. 13,373 SCRA 524.
43395 U.S. 701(1969).
44Id.
45Ursua v. Court of Appeals,256 SCRA 147(1996).
46Cityand County of Denver v. Holmes, 400 P.2d 1 (1965).
47Paat v. Court of Appeals,266 SCRA 167(1997).

307

VOL. 400, APRIL 1, 307


2003
People vs. Lacson

Remedial legislation, or procedural rule, or doctrine of the Court designed to enhance and
implement the constitutional rights of parties in criminal proceedings may be applied
retroactively or prospectively depending upon several factors, such as the history of the new rule,
its purpose and effect, and whether the retrospective application will further its operation, the
particular conduct sought to be remedied
48
and the effect thereon in the administration
49
of justice
and of criminal laws in particular. In a per curiamdecision in Stefano v. Woods, the United
States Supreme Court catalogued the factors in determining whether a new rule or doctrine
enunciated by the High Court should be given retrospective or prospective effect:
(a) the purpose to be served by the new standards, (b) the extent of the reliance by law enforcement
authorities on the old standards, and (c) the effect on the administration of justice of a retroactive
application of the new standards.

In this case, the Court agrees with the petitioners that the time-bar of two years under the new
rule should not be applied retroactively against the State.
In the new rule in question, as now construed by the Court, it has fixed a time-bar of one year
or two years for the revival of criminal cases provisionally dismissed with the express consent of
the accused and with a priori notice to the offended party. The time-bar may appear, on first
impression, unreasonable compared to the periods under Article 90 of the Revised Penal Code.
However, in fixing the time-bar, the Court balanced the societal interests and those of the
accused for the orderly and speedy disposition of criminal cases with minimum prejudice to the
State and the accused. It took into account the substantial rights of both the State and of the
accused to due process. The Court believed that the time limit is a reasonable period for the State
to revive provisionally dismissed cases with the consent of the accused and notice to the offended
parties. The time-bar fixed by the Court must be respected unless it is50shown that the period is
manifestly short or insufficient that the rule becomes a denial of justice. The petition-

_______________
48Linkletterv. Victor Walker,381 U.S. 618(1965).
49393 U.S. 630(1968).
50Glen Livestock Company v. Colwell,185 U.S. 54(1902).

308

308 SUPREME COURT


REPORTS
ANNOTATED
People vs. Lacson

ers failed to show a manifest shortness or insufficiency of the time-bar.


The new rule was conceptualized by the Committee on the Revision of the Rules and approved
by the Courten bancprimarily to enhance the administration of the criminal justice system and
the rights to due process of the State and the accused by eliminating the deleterious practice of
trial courts of provisionally dismissing criminal cases on motion of either the prosecution or the
accused or jointly, either with no time-bar for the revival thereof or with a specific or definite
period for such revival by the public prosecutor. There were times when such criminal cases were
no longer revived or refiled due to causes beyond the control of the public prosecutor or because of
the indolence, apathy or the lackadaisical attitude of public prosecutors to the prejudice of the
State and the accused 51
despite the mandate to public prosecutors and trial judges to expedite
criminal proceedings.
It is almost
52
a universal experience that the accused welcomes delay as it usually operates in
his favor, especially if he greatly fears the consequences of his trial and conviction. 53
He is hesitant
to disturb the hushed inaction by which dominant cases have been known to expire.
The inordinate delay in the revival or refiling of criminal cases may impair or reduce the
capacity of the State to prove its case with the disappearance or nonavailability of its witnesses.
Physical evidence may have been lost. Memories of witnesses may have grown dim or have faded.
54
54
Passage of time makes proof of any fact more difficult. The accused may become a fugitive from
justice or commit another crime. The longer the lapse of time from the dismissal of the case to the
revival thereof, the more difficult it is to prove the crime.
On the other side of the fulcrum, a mere provisional dismissal of a criminal case does not
terminate a criminal case. The possibility that the case may be revived at any time may disrupt
or reduce, if not derail, the chances of the accused for employment, curtail his

_______________
51United States v. Mann, 201 F. Supp. 208 (1968);Barker v. Wingo,407 U.S. 514(1972).
52United States v. Fay, 313 F.2d 620 (1963).
53United States v. Mann, supra.
54Dickey v. State of Florida,398 U.S. 30(1970).

309

VOL. 400, APRIL 1, 309


2003
People vs. Lacson

association, subject him to public obloquy and create anxiety in him and his family. He is unable
to lead a normal life because of community suspicion and his own anxiety. He continues55
to suffer
those penalties and disabilities incompatible with the presumption of innocence. He may also
lose his witnesses or their memories may fade with the passage of time. In the long run, it may
diminish 56
his capacity to defend himself and thus skew the fairness of the entire criminal justice
system.
The time-bar under the new rule was fixed by the Court to excise the malaise that plagued the
administration of the criminal justice system for thebenefit of the State and the accused, not for
the accused only.
The Court agrees with the petitioners that to apply the time-bar retroactively so that the two-
year period commenced to run on March 31, 1999 when the public prosecutor received his copy of
the resolution of Judge Agnir, Jr. dismissing the criminal cases is inconsistent with the
intendment of the new rule. Instead of giving the State two years to revive provisionally
dismissed cases, the State had considerably less than two years to do so. Thus, Judge Agnir, Jr.
dismissed Criminal Cases Nos. Q-99-81679 to Q-99-81689 on March 29, 1999. The new rule took
effect on December 1, 2000. If the Court applied the new time-bar retroactively, the State would
have only one year and three months or until March 31, 2001 within which to revive these
criminal cases. The period is short of the two-year period fixed under the new rule. On the other
hand, if the time limit is applied prospectively, the State would have two years from December 1,
2000 or until December 1, 2002 within which to revive the cases. This is in consonance with the
intendment of the new rule in fixing the time-bar and thus prevent injustice to the State and
avoid absurd, unreasonable, oppressive, injurious, and wrongful results in the administration of
justice.
The period from April 1, 1999 to November 30, 1999 should be excluded in the computation of
the two-year period because the rule prescribing it was not yet in effect at the time and the State
could not be expected to comply with the time-bar. It cannot even be argued that the State waived
its right to revive the criminal cases against respondent or that it was negligent for not reviving

_______________
55Ibid.
56Barker v. Wingo, supra.

310

310 SUPREME COURT


REPORTS
ANNOTATED
People vs. Lacson

them within the two-year period under the new rule. 57


As the United States Supreme Court said,
per Justice Felix Frankfurter, inGriffin v. People:
We should not indulge in the fiction that the law now announced has always been the law and, therefore,
that those who did not avail themselves of it waived their rights . . . .

The two-year period fixed in the new rule is for the benefit of both the State and the accused. It
should not be emasculated and reduced by an inordinate retroactive application of the time-bar
therein provided merely to benefit the accused. For to do so would cause an injustice of hardship
to the State and adversely affect the administration of justice in general and of criminal laws in
particular.
To require the State to give a valid justification as a conditionsine qua nonto the revival of a
case provisionally dismissed with the express consent of the accused before the effective date of
the new rule is to assume that the State is obliged to comply with the time-bar under the new
rule before it took effect. This would be a rank denial of justice. The State must be given a period
of one year or two years as the case may be from December 1, 2000 to revive the criminal case
without requiring the State to make a valid justification for not reviving the case before the
effective date of the new rule. Although in criminal cases, the accused is entitled to justice, and
fairness, so is the State. As the United States 58
Supreme Court said, per Mr. Justice Benjamin
Cardozo, inSnyder v. State of Massachussetts, the concept of fairness must not be 59strained till
it is narrowed to a filament. We are to keep the balance true. InDimatulac v. Villon, this Court
emphasized that the judges action must not impair the substantial rights of the accused nor the
right of the State and offended party to due process of law. This Court further said:
Indeed, for justice to prevail, the scales must balance; justice is not to be dispensed for the accused alone.
The interests of society and the offended parties which have been wronged must be equally considered.
Verily, a verdict of conviction is not necessarily a denial of justice; and an

_______________
57351 U.S. 12(1956).
58291 U.S. 97(1933).
59297 SCRA 679(1998).

311

VOL. 400, APRIL 1, 311


2003
People vs. Lacson

acquittal is not necessarily a triumph of justice, for, to the society offended and the party wronged, it could
also mean injustice. Justice then must be rendered even-handedly to both the accused, on one hand, and the
State and offended party, on the other.
In this case, the eleven Informations in Criminal Cases Nos. 01-101102 to 01-101112 were filed
with the Regional Trial Court on June 6, 2001 well within the two-year period. In sum, this Court
finds the motion for reconsideration of petitioners meritorious.
IN THE LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the petitioners Motion for Reconsideration is
GRANTED. The Resolution of this Court, dated May 28, 2002, is SET ASIDE. The Decision of the
Court of Appeals, dated August 24, 2001, in CA-G.R. SP No. 65034 is REVERSED. The Petition
of the Respondent with the Regional Trial Court in Civil Case No. 01-100933 is DISMISSED for
being moot and academic. The Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 81, is DIRECTED to
forthwith proceed with Criminal Cases Nos. 01-101102 to 01-101112 with deliberate dispatch.
No pronouncements as to costs.
SO ORDERED.

Davide, Jr., (C.J.), Mendoza, Panganiban, Austria-Martinez, Corona, Carpio-


MoralesandAzcuna, JJ.,concur.
Bellosillo, J.,SeeSeparate Opinion, concurring.
Puno, J.,Please SeeDissent.
Vitug, J.,SeeSeparate (dissenting) Opinion.
Quisumbing, J.,In the result; concur withJ. Bellosillos opinion.
Ynares-Santiago, J.,I join the dissents ofJ. Puno &J. Gutierrez.
Sandoval-Gutierrez, J.,I dissent. Please see mydissenting opinion.
Carpio, J.,No part.
312

312 SUPREME COURT


REPORTS
ANNOTATED
People vs. Lacson

SEPARATE OPINION, CONCURRING

BELLOSILLO,J.:

If we make a mistake, we can only pray that their ghosts will not haunt us for the rest of our days . . .

Amen! I say to the clear and conciseponenciaof our colleague, Mr. Justice Romeo J. Callejo, Sr.,
who touched the issues head on and resolved them with the calm deliberation of a dedicated
jurist. Let me just add a few more thoughts in the effort to reveal and rectify the hazards and
uncertainties ordinarily concealed by the glib use of formal illogic.
This case springs from the brutal slaughter of suspected members of the Kuratong Baleleng
Gangon 18 May 1995. Eleven (11) restless soulswho perished in a shroud of mysteryremain
shackled for more than half a decade by the bondage of popular apathy and neglect, and
condemned to an ignominious fall by their infamy. Stigmatized and denounced, their demise
must have been hailed by many as the triumph of retributive justice
x x x x Gifted with the liberty they know not how to use; with a power and energy they know not how to
apply; with a life whose purpose and aim they comprehend not; they drag through their useless and
convulsed existence. Byron destroys them one after the other, as if he were the executioner of a sentence
decreed in heaven. They fall unwept, like a withered leaf into the stream of time
1
x x x x They die, as they
have lived, alone; and a popular malediction hovers round their solitary tombs.

The dictates of prudence however would counsel us at this time to reserve judgment on their sins
and transgressions. The overriding consideration is the need to unveil the truth, for truth alone is
the veritable touchstone of justice. The rights of the eleven (11) victims, as much as those of the
respondent and his co-accused, deserve full recognition and protection. Only then can we say that
we are truly civilizeda breed apart from savages.
But the manner by which the carnage of 18 May 1995 was carried out sparked a public
indignation that prompted the Senate Committees on Justice and Human Rights, Crimes and
National

_______________
1Giuseppe Mazzini, Byron and Goethe.

313

VOL. 400, APRIL 1, 313


2003
People vs. Lacson

Defense and Security to conduct a joint investigation on possible human rights violations
involving police officers. The inquiry focused on the issue of whether the death of the eleven (11)
victims was the result of a rub-out or summary killing, or a shoot-out or with exchange of
gunfire, between the victims and the police considering that the principal antagonists were
policemen and civilians. On 21 June 1995 the aforesaid Senate Committees, in Joint Committee
Report No. 1021, found thus
There is no clarity as to whether the bodies were handcuffed or hogtied with ropes when they were
killed.The evidence, however,establishes that those who died were defenseless and that except for Soronda,
none of them fired a gun. The forensic report and testimonies of De los Santos and De la Cruz show that
eleven (11) persons were killed in coldblood while in the custody of the law enforcersin the early morning of
May 18 in Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City (italics supplied).

concluded that the killings were done2


in cold blood and recommended the filing of the appropriate
charges against the police officers.
Thereafter multiple murder charges were filed by the Ombudsman before
the Sandiganbayan against respondent and twenty-five (25) other police officers, docketed as
Crim. Cases Nos. 23047-23057. On motion of the accused, the Ombudsman conducted a
reinvestigation of the cases resulting in the filing of Amended Informations, this time charging
respondent, among other officers, as a mere accessory after-the-fact. Arraignment followed and
respondent entered a plea of not guilty.
Respondent challenged the jurisdiction of theSandiganbayancontending in the main that the
highest ranking principal accused under the Amended Informations held the position of Chief
Inspector with a salary below that for Grade 27, for which reason, jurisdiction properly belonged
to the Regional Trial Court and not the Sandiganbayan. The issue of jurisdiction eventually
reached the

_______________
2P/C Supts. Jewel F. Canson, herein respondent Panfilo Lacson, and Romeo Acop, P/Sr. Supt. Francisco Subia, Romulo
Sales, Supts. Almario Hilario, Luizo Ticman, Zozorabel Laureles, P/C Insps. Michael Ray Aquino, Gil Meneses, Cesar
Mancao, Jose Erwin Villacorte, P/Sr. Insps. Rolando Anduyan, Glenn Dumlao, Sotero Ramos, P/Insp. Ricardo Dandan,
SPO4 Vicente Arnado, SPO1. Wilfredo Cuantero and SPO1 Wilfredo Angeles.

314

314 SUPREME COURT


REPORTS
ANNOTATED
People vs. Lacson

Supreme Court, which ordered the transfer of the cases to the Regional Trial Court of Quezon
City not because the highest ranking principal accused was receiving a salary below Grade 27 but
because the Amended Informations did not show that the offenses charged were committed in
relation to, or in the discharge of, official functions of the accused.
The criminal cases were docketed as Crim. Cases Nos. Q-99-81679 to Q-99-81689, and raffled
to RTC-Br. 81 then presided over by Judge Wenceslao Agnir, Jr. Respondent and the other
accused filed separate but identical motions praying for a judicial determination of probable
cause, to hold in abeyance the issuance of warrants of arrest in the meantime, and to dismiss the
cases should the court find no probable cause.
During the hearing on the motions, the seven (7) or eight (8) victims next of kin executed
affidavits of desistance while others recanted their affidavit-complaints. With this development,
the trial court in its Resolution of 29 March 1999 dismissed the cases for lack of probable cause to
hold the accused for trial, holding that there is no more evidence3 to show that the crime(s) have
been committed and that the accused are probably guilty thereof.
Two (2) years later, or on 29 March 2001, Secretary Hernando B. Perez of the Department of
Justice received a letter from PNP Director General Leandro R. Mendoza indorsing for
preliminary investigation the sworn affidavits of two (2) new witnesses relative to theKuratong
Balelengincident. Secretary Perez constituted a panel of State Prosecutors to investigate the
matter. The panel issued several subpoenas to all the accused in Crim. Cases Nos. Q-99-81679 to
Q-99-81689, including respondent Lacson, requiring them to submit their counter-affidavits and
to appear at the preliminary conference.
Consequently, on 28 May 2001, respondent and several of his co-accused filed a petition for
prohibition with application for a temporary restraining order and/or preliminary injunction with
the RTC-Manila, seeking to enjoin the Secretary of Justice and the State Prosecutors from
further conducting a preliminary investigation. The prohibition case was raffled to RTC-Br. 40,
Manila, presided over by Judge Herminia V. Pasamba. The filing of this petition
notwithstanding, the Panel of State Prosecutors proceeded to

_______________
3See Annex A of the Petition.

315

VOL. 400, APRIL 1, 315


2003
People vs. Lacson
issue a Resolution finding probable cause to hold respondent and his co-accused for trial, for
eleven (11) counts of murder. Accordingly,Informationswere filed before the RTC, Quezon City,
and docketed as Crim. Cases Nos. 01-101102 to 01-101112.
Deviating from the normal procedure, the Executive Judge, Vice-Executive Judges and
Presiding Judges of Quezon City dispensed with the customary raffle; instead, assigned the cases
to Judge Ma. Theresa L. Yadao of RTC-Br. 81, Quezon City, presumably as the successor of Judge
Agnir in the same branch.
Meanwhile, in the prohibition case before RTC-Br. 40, Manila, Judge Pasamba denied the
prayer for the issuance of a temporary restraining order thus
After a study, this Court submits that the dismissal of Criminal Cases Nos. Q-99-81679 to Q-99-81689 is not
one on the merits and without any recorded arraignment and entered plea on the part of the herein
petitioners. The dismissal was a direct consequence of the finding of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court
that no probable cause exists for the issuance of warrants of arrest against petitioner herein and to hold
them for trial. The arraignment had with the Sandiganbayan does not put the case in 4a different perspective
since the Sandiganbayan was adjudged to be without any jurisdiction to try the cases.

Dissatisfied, respondent elevated the case on a petition for certiorari to the Court of Appeals
which thereafter rendered the assailed Decision of 24 August 2001 granting the petition,
declaring null and void all the proceedings conducted by the State Prosecutors, and ordering all
the criminalInformationsdismissed
The present controversy, being one involving provisional dismissal and revival of criminal cases, falls
within the purview of the prescriptive period provided under Section 8, Rule 117 of the 2000 Revised Rules
on Criminal Procedure. The second paragraph of the said provision is couched in clear, simple and
categorical words. It mandates that for offenses punishable by imprisonment of more than six (6) years, as
the subject criminal cases, their provisional dismissal shall become permanent two (2) years after the
issuance of the order without the case having been revived. It should be noted that the revival of the subject
criminal cases x x x was

_______________
4Order dated 5 June 2001.

316

316 SUPREME COURT


REPORTS
ANNOTATED
People vs. Lacson

commenced only on April 19, 2001, that


5
is, more than two (2) years after the issuance, on March 29, 1999, of
RTC-Quezon Citys Resolution x x x x

Hence, the present recourse. The bone of contention, which crystallizes all the arguments of the
parties into a single point of inquiry, bears upon the nature and effects of a provisional dismissal
which has become permanent after the lapse of the periods provided in Sec. 8, Rule 117,
2000Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure. For facility of reference, the controversial provision of
Sec. 8 quoted hereunder
Sec. 8.Provisional dismissal.A case shall not be provisionally dismissed except with the express consent of
the accused and with notice to the offended party.
The provisional dismissal of offenses punishable by imprisonment x x x of more than six (6) years, their
provisional dismissal shall become permanent two (2) years after issuance of the order without the case
having been revived (italics supplied).

Assuming that Sec. 8, Rule 117, is available to respondent although it is my position that it is
not, the question that should be asked is: Does the provisional dismissal of a criminal case which
has become permanent under Sec. 8 effectively foreclose the right of the State to prosecute an
accused? I have taken great pains analyzing the position of respondent; regretfully, I am unable
to agree for my conscience shivers at its debilitating, crippling if not crushing, impact upon our
criminal justice system.
The basic substantive laws on prescription of offenses are Arts. 90 and 91 ofThe Revised Penal
Code, which are quoted hereunder
Art. 90.Prescription of crimes.Crimes punishable by death,reclusion perpetuaorreclusion temporalshall
prescribe in twenty years. Crimes punishable by other afflictive penalties shall prescribe in fifteen years.
Crimes punishable by other afflictive penalties shall prescribe in fifteen years.

_______________
5Decision penned by Associate Justice Eriberto U. Rosario, Jr., concurred in by Associate Justices Conrado M.
Vasquez, Jr., Hilarion L Aquino, and Josefina Guevara-Salonga. Associate Justice Buenaventura,J. Guerrero, dissenting.

317

VOL. 400, APRIL 1, 317


2003
People vs. Lacson

Those punishable by a correctional penalty shall prescribe in ten years; with the exception of those
punishable byarresto mayor, which shall prescribe in five years.
The crime of libel or other similar offenses shall prescribe in one year.
The offenses of oral defamation and slander by deed shall prescribe in six months.
Light offenses shall prescribe in two months.
When the penalty fixed by law is a compound one, the highest penalty shall be made the basis of the
application of the rules contained in the first, second and third paragraphs of this article.
Art. 91.Computation of prescription of offenses.The period of prescription shall commence to run from
the day on which the crime is discovered by the offended party, the authorities, or their agents, and shall be
interrupted by the filing of the complaint or information, and shall commence to run again when such
proceedings terminate without the accused being convicted or acquitted, or are unjustifiably stopped for any
reason not imputable to him.
The term of prescription shall not run when the offender is absent from the Philippine Archipelago.

Evidently, respondents concept of a provisional dismissal that has become permanent under Sec.
8, Rule 117, emasculates and renders illusory its very purpose. It effectively obliterates the
different prescriptive periods under Art. 90, which are fixed on the basis of the gravity of the
penalty prescribed for the offense, and supplants it with a uniform period of one (1) year or two
(2) years, as the case may be. It likewise substantially modifies the manner of computing the
period of prescription in Art. 91 since the reckoning of the one (1) or two (2)-year prescriptive
period under Sec. 8 is constant and invariable, and without regard to the number of
interruptions. Regardless of the number of times the case against an accused is provisionally
dismissed, the prosecution would always have a full grace period of two (2) years within which to
revive the case; much unlike Art. 91 wherein the period consumed prior to the filing of the
complaint or information is tacked to the period consumed after the dismissal of the case for
purposes of determining whether the crime has prescribed.
Interestingly, a dividing line is drawn in the application of Arts. 90 and 91 of The Revised
Penal Code, and Sec. 8, Rule 117, of the2000 Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure, obviously in
an attempt
318

318 SUPREME COURT


REPORTS
ANNOTATED
People vs. Lacson

to lend a delusive semblance of plausibility to its construction of Sec. 8. It is posited that Art. 91
and Sec. 8 operate on different planes, so to speak, the vital distinction being that Sec. 8, Rule
117, contemplates a situation where a case had already been filed and was provisionally
dismissed.
I do not agree. Article 91 ofThe Revised Penal Codedistinctly speaks of prescription x x x shall
be interrupted by the filing of the complaint or information, and shall commence to run again
when such proceedings terminate without the accused being convicted or acquitted, or
unjustifiably stopped for any reason not imputable to him. It can readily be seen therefore that
the concept of a provisional dismissal is subsumed in Art. 91 since in a provisional dismissal,
proceedings necessarily terminate without the accused being convicted or acquitted. Thus, to
construe and apply Sec. 8 in the manner suggested above would undeniably result in a direct and
irreconcilable conflict with Art. 91.
In a provisional dismissal, the prosecution, the defense and the offended party, in effect, enter
into a tacit agreement for a temporary cessation of hostilities, i.e., to momentarily hold in
abeyance the prosecution of the accused. Paragraph 1 of Sec. 8 prescribes the requirements
thereto: (a) consent of the accused, and (b) notice to the offended party. It must be remembered
however that permanent dismissal of a case is but an offshoot of its previous provisional
dismissal and the subsequent failure to revive within the time frames set forth in Sec. 8. But does
the permanent dismissal of the case arising from a provisional dismissal affect the right of the
State to prosecute within the periods provided in Art. 90 ofThe Revised Penal Code? Certainly
not, for the prescriptive periods prescribed by law cannot be affected directly or indirectly by any
agreement or consent of the parties, much less be held hostage to any procedural
limitations.Verily, in matters of public crimes which have a direct bearing on public interest, no
agreements or personal arrangements should be brought to bear upon the penal action.
Courts cannotby an act of judicial legislationabridge, amend, alter, or nullify statutes. We
do not sit as councils of revision, empowered to judicially reform or fashion legislation in
accordance with our own notions of prudent public policy. Certainly, lest we are prepared to ride
roughshod over this prerogative of Congress, we cannot interfere with the power of the legislature
to
319

VOL. 400, APRIL 1, 319


2003
People vs. Lacson
surrender, as an act of grace, the right of the State to prosecute and to declare the offense no
longer subject to prosecution after certain periods of time as expressed in the statute.
Furthermore, the right of the State to prosecute criminals is a substantive, nay, inherent
right. To unduly limit the exercise of such right for a short period of one (1) or two (2) years
through the expedient of a procedural rule is unconstitutional, considering the limitation in our
fundamental law on the rule-making 6power of this Court, that is, its rules must not diminish,
increase or modify substantive rights.
Another decisive factor which militates heavily against the foregoing thesis that Art. 91 and
Sec. 8 operate on different planes, is the fact that the phrase amounts to an acquittal, which
appeared in the original draft of what is now Sec. 8, Rule 117, was judiciously rejected by the
Supreme Court when it approved the final draft of the2000 Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure

JUSTICE PANGANIBAN: You know that prior to the wordings at present of Sec. 8, Rule 117,
there was a final committee draft that said and I quote: the corresponding order shall state
that the provisional dismissal shall become permanent and amount to an acquittal one year
after the issuance without the case having been revived. What I am trying to point out is that,
as originally worded, Section 8 expressly stated that the dismissal would amount to an
acquittal. But the final wording eliminated the words amount to an acquittal, isnt it?
ATTY. FORTUN:I would not know that, Your Honor. I have not seen that revised (interrupted)
xxxx
JUSTICE PANGANIBAN:Well, that is true that those words were eliminated precisely because
we wanted to avoid7 making invocation of that rule equivalent to an acquittal. All right,
(interrupted) x x x x

_______________
6Art. VIII, 5(5) of the 1987 Constitution provides that the Supreme Court shall have the power to promulgate rules

concerning the protection and enforcement of constitutional rights, pleading, practice, and procedure in all courts, the
admission to the practice of law, the Integrated Bar, and legal assistance to the underprivileged. Such rules shall provide
a simplified and inexpensive procedure for the speedy disposition of cases, shall be uniform for all courts of the same
grade, and shall not diminish, increase, or modify substantive rights x x x x
7TSN, 19 February 2002, pp. 292-293;see also, Minutes of the Revision Committee Meetings, 11 October 1999, 2:30

pm;id., 8 November 1999, 2:00 pm.

320

320 SUPREME COURT


REPORTS
ANNOTATED
People vs. Lacson

Had the intention been to confer on Sec. 8 the effect of acquittal, the Court should have retained
the express provision to that effect in the final draft. Obviously, the conspicuous absence therein
of the phrase amounts to an acquittal, or its equivalent, forecloses a speculative approach to the
meaning of Sec. 8. Virtually crossed out, such clause cannot now be incised from the original draft
and grafted into the approved draft of the revised rules, without doing violence to its intent.
It must be stressed that Sec. 8 is nothing more than a rule of procedure. As part of the
adjective law, it is only a means to an endan aid to substantive lawand should accordingly be
interpreted and applied in that concept. It was never meant to modify the settled provisions of
law on the matter of prescription of offenses; or to unduly curtail the right of the State to bring
offenders before the bar of justice. These matters are best left to the wisdom and sound judgment
of the legislature.
Section 8 is very limited in scope and application. Justice Oscar M. Herrera, Consultant,
Committee on Revision of the Rules, in hisTreatise on Historical Development and Highlights of
Amendments of Rules on Criminal Procedure (Rationale of Amendments of the Revised Rules on
Criminal Procedure), made the following commentaries on the import of the provision
There had been so many instances where the National Bureau of Investigation or other police agencies have
refused to issue clearances for purposes of employment or travel abroad, to persons who have pending cases,
on the ground that the dismissal of their cases by the court was merely provisional, notwithstanding the fact
that such provisional dismissals, more often than not, had been done five or ten years ago. This causes
prejudice to the persons concerned. Accordingly, a rule was provided that the provisional dismissal of
offenses punishable by imprisonment not exceeding six (6) years or a fine of any amount, or both, shall
become permanent one (1) year after issuance of the order without the case having been revived. With
respect to offenses punishable by imprisonment of more than six (6) years, their provisional dismissal
8
shall
become permanent two (2) years after issuance of the order without the case having been revived.

Clearly, the feverishly contested provision is purely administrative or regulatory in character.


The policy embodied therein is

_______________
8See also Herrera,Remedial Law, Vol. IV, 2001 Ed., at 660.

321

VOL. 400, APRIL 1, 321


2003
People vs. Lacson

simply to grant the accused momentary relief from administrative restrictions occasioned by the
filing of a criminal case against him. He is freed in the meantime of the dire consequences of his
having been charged with a crime, and temporarily restored to his immunities as a citizen, solely
for purposes of government clearances. Section 8 imports no intricate nor ornate legal
signification that we need not discern from it a meaning that too far deviates from what it
actually purports to convey.
Indeed, were we to adhere to the thesis equating permanent dismissal with finality and
acquittal, we would be ascribing meaning to the provision which is not only at war with the
demands of reason but also contrary to the clear intention of the rule. The disastrous effect of
respondents interpretation of Sec. 8 upon our criminal justice system is not difficult to imagine.
So construed, it would afford an accused, endowed with a fertile imagination and creativeness, a
plethora of opportunities to rig his prosecution by silencing witnesses and suppressing evidence
then letting the case hibernate for a much shorter period of one (1) or two (2) years. To be sure,
our procedural laws could not have intended to sanction such a result. A system of procedure,
intoned Justice Cardozo, is perverted from its proper
9
function when it multiplies impediments to
justice without the warrant of a clear necessity.
Respondent conjures up the ingenious hypothesis that although Sec. 8 of Rule 117 and the
double jeopardy principle have different requisites, they are nonetheless cognate rules since
Sec. 8 of Rule 117 10affords the accused benefits analogous to that bestowed under the double
jeopardy principle. Implacable and unyielding is he in the position that a provisional dismissal
that attains the character of permanency produces the effect of a sui generis acquittal. In this
respect, according to him, Sec. 8 of Rule 117 is not in that Sec. 17 (Discharge of Accused to be
State Witness) unique and Sec. 18 unique and Sec. 18 (Discharge of Accused Operates as
Acquittal) of Rule 119 of the2000 Revised Rules on Criminal Procedureis also invested with the
benefits of double jeopardy when it grants the accused state witness a discharge tantamount to
an acquittal. In both instances, the absence of any or all of the essential requisites of double
jeopardy does not preclude the discharge of

_______________
9Reed v. Allen,286 U.S. 191, 209 (1932).
10SeeRespondents Memorandum, at pp. 49-53.

322

322 SUPREME COURT


REPORTS
ANNOTATED
People vs. Lacson

the accused state witness or one whose case has attained permanent dismissal.
It bears recalling that since Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence on double jeopardy was swept into the
shores of Philippine constitutional and statutory history, our concept of double 11
jeopardy has
faithfully adhered to the pronouncements first made byKepner v. United States that x x x (I)t is
then the settled law of this court that former jeopardy includes one who has been acquitted by a
verdict duly rendered, although no judgment be entered on the verdict, and it was found upon a
defective indictment. The protection is not x x x against the peril of second punishment, but
against being tried again for the second offense. The fundamental philosophy that underlies the
finality of an acquittal is the recognition of the fact that the state with its infinite resources and
power should not be allowed to make repeated attempts to convict an individual and expose him
to a state of perpetual anxiety and embarrassment as well as enhancing the possibility that
although innocent, he may be found guilty.
Presently, the2000 Revised Rules on Criminal Procedureis explicit in its prescription of the
requisites for the invocation of double jeopardy and the resultant effect thereon on acquittals.
Section 7, Rule 117, states
Sec. 7.Former conviction or acquittal: double jeopardy.When an accused has been convicted or acquitted,
or the case against him dismissed or otherwise terminated without his express consent by a court of
competent jurisdiction, upon a valid complaint or information or other formal charge sufficient in form and
substance to sustain a conviction and after the accused had pleaded to the charge, the conviction or acquittal
of the accused or the dismissal of the case shall be a bar to another prosecution for the offense charged, or
for any attempt to commit the same or frustration thereof, or for any offense which necessarily includes or is
necessarily included in the offense charged in the former complaint or information.

Ensconced in the foregoing procedural tenet are the imperatives for invoking double jeopardy: (a)
a valid complaint or information; (b) before a court of competent jurisdiction; (c) the defendant
had pleaded to the charge; and, (d) the defendant was acquitted or convicted or the case against
him dismissed or otherwise terminated without his express consent.

_______________
11195 US 100.

323
VOL. 400, APRIL 1, 323
2003
People vs. Lacson

In contrast, provisional dismissal under Sec. 8 of Rule 117 requires only the twin requirements of
consent of the accused and notice to the offended party. When a criminal case is provisionally
dismissed upon the express application of the defendant, the dismissal is not a bar to another
prosecution for the same offense because his action in having the case dismissed is a waiver of his
constitutional prerogative of double jeopardy as he, in a manner of speaking, throws a monkey
wrench to the judicial process and prevents the court from rendering a judgment of conviction
against him. Jurisprudence has emphatically enunciated that double jeopardy cannot be properly
invoked where the case was dismissed with the express conformity of the accused. This much is
given as one of the requisites of double jeopardy,i.e., where the accused is acquitted or convicted,
or the case against him dismissed or otherwise terminated without his express consent. This
assent by the accused to the dismissal is the operative act that precludes the effects of double
jeopardy from setting in, so that despite the permanency of the dismissal due to the lapse of the
periods set forth in Sec. 8 of Rule 117, therefiling of a case under a new information does not
trample upon this venerable doctrine.
The permanence of the dismissal should not be understood as the harbinger of final and
absolute liberation of the accused from future prosecution. It merely augurs the demise of
theunrevived casesbut it does not prevent the state from exercising the right to re-prosecute the
accused within the prescriptive period provided in Art. 90 of theRevised Penal Code. With more
weighty reason can we not accommodate respondent in his plea to avail of the graces afforded by
the doctrine since the records would show that he has yet to enter his plea to the charges or that the
trial on the merits has as yet to commence.
Respondent also fires a shot in the dark when he suggests that there exists no marked
difference betweenrevivalandrefilingof a criminal case as in fact, according to him, the two (2)
concepts are synonymous and interchangeable. A survey of jurisprudential antecedents reveal the
distinction between the revival and refiling of a new information. The authorities are unanimous
in their recognition of the fact that a provisionally dismissed case can be revived as it does not
call for the operation of the rule on double jeopardy
324

324 SUPREME COURT


REPORTS
ANNOTATED
People vs. Lacson
12
and that cases can also be refiled under a new complaint or information for the same offense.
While I agree however that the filing of Crim. Cases Nos. 01-101102 - 01-101112 is NOT
a revival of the earlier dismissed cases, I wish to emphasize, lest I be misconstrued, that
theNew Informationsin the subsequently refiled cases are new not because the respondent is
charged thereunder as a co-principal, instead of as a mere accessory, or that the number of the
accused has been increased from 26 to 34; rather, the newInformationswhich are the bases for
the prosecution of the respondent again under the same offense, are new for the singular reason
that they are separate and distinct from those in the previously dismissed cases. Simply stated, it
is not of consequence whether the allegations in the two (2) sets of Informations are
quintessentially identical or different in form and substance insofar as concerns the right of the
state to prosecute the respondent anew after the provisional dismissal became permanent.
A question may be asked: Suppose that, the new information is a verbatim reproduction of the
information in the permanently dis-

_______________
12One of the earliest declarations by this Court on the matter is enshrined inRepublic v. Agoncillo(L-27257, 31 August
1971,40 SCRA 579.) where Chief Justice Fernando, then an Associate Justice of the Court, articulated the doctrine that
the institution of a case after having been dismissed without prejudice cannot be the basis of the claim of twice being put
in jeopardy, Citing the case ofJaca v. Blanco(86 Phil. 452[19501)Agoncillounequivocally pointed out that x x x (I)n the
absence of any statutory provision to the contrary, we find no reason why the court may not, in the interest of justice,
dismiss a case provisionally,i.e.,without prejudice to reinstating it before the order becomes final or to the subsequent
filing of a new information for the same offense.Ortigas & Company Limited Partnership v. Velasco(G.R. No. 109645, 25
July 1994,234 SCRA 455) made the clarification that a dismissal of a case, even if made without prejudice, and the lapse
of the reglementary period within which to set aside the dismissal operates to remove the case from the Courts docket; in
which event, the case can no longer be reinstated by mere motion in the original docket action, but only by the filing of a
new complaint. This ruling was reiterated inBanares II v. Balising (G.R. No. 132624, 13 March 2000, 328 SCRA 36)
which declared that since a final order of dismissal is beyond the power of the court to modify or alter, a party who wishes
to reinstate the case has no other option but to file a new complaint.

325

VOL. 400, APRIL 1, 325


2003
People vs. Lacson

missed case, can we not now say that the newly filed case is a mere revival of the case previously
dismissed? After all, stripped of semantic finery, their being identical would lead to the
impression, although erroneous, that one is but a revival of the other. On the surface one may see
no apparent difference between the two (2) sets of Informations, but a subtle yet significant
functional distinction in fact exists. Once a case is permanently dismissed after the lapse of the
prescriptive periods set forth in Sec. 8, the case is dead and, for all intents and purposes, beyond
resuscitation. All the ongoing proceedings and those still to be had,e.g.,preliminary investigation,
arraignment, trial,etc., shall cease and be terminated. In the event however that the accused is
prosecuted anew with the same offense, albeit under an identical information, the previously
terminated proceedings will not be reactivated, the previous case having been set at rest;instead,
new proceedings will be conducted as if the accused has been charged afresh. To my mind, the
foregoing interpretation of Sec. 8, Rule 117 has in its favor the soundest policy considerations
based no less on the fundamental objectives of procedural rules.
Incidentally, I find it particularly disturbing that theInformationsin Crim. Cases Nos. Q-99-
81679 to Q-99-81689 were dismissed by the trial judge without complying with one of the
requirements of the first paragraph of Sec. 8, i.e., the dismissal must be with notice to the
offended party. There is nothing in the records which would show that all the offended parties
were ever notified that the cases against respondent and his co-accused would be dismissed. Even
if we proceed on the assumption that the filing of affidavits of desistance by the offended parties
may be considered a substantial equivalent of notice, still the dismissal appears to be
procedurally infirm since only seven (7) of the offended
13
parties representing eight (8) of the
eleven (11) victims, executed affidavits of desistance. No similar affidavits were sub-

_______________
13 The following executed affidavits of Resistance: Myrna Abalora, mother of victims Sherwin Abalora and Key
Abalora; Rufino Siplon, father of victim Rolando Siplon; Carmelita Elcamel, wife of victim Wilbur Elcamel; Leonora
Soronda Amora, mother of victim Joel Soronda Amora; Nenita Alap-ap, wife of victim Carlito Alap-ap; lmelda Montero,
wife of victim Manuel Montero; and Margarita Redillas, mother of victim Hilario Jevy Redillas.

326

326 SUPREME COURT


REPORTS
ANNOTATED
People vs. Lacson
14
mitted for the three (3) remaining victims. Cannot the next of kin of these three (3) remaining
victims, who were not even notified of the provisional dismissal of the cases, prosecute those
responsible for killing them within the prescriptive period provided in Art. 90 of The Revised
Penal Code? Are they now without any remedy in law if witnesses belatedly surface, they who
cowered in fear at the time because of the positions of power held by those perceived to be
responsible therefor?
Significantly also, I am at a loss as to why the Court of Appeals reckoned the two (2)-year
period from 29 March 1999 as the date of issuance of the resolution of dismissal. When Sec. 8
speaks of issuance it should be construed not with reference to the date as appearing in the
resolution of dismissal but on the date it was actually delivered to the proper person and received
by him. Otherwise, how would the offended parties know that such resolution was issued as to
reckon with the two (2)-year period after which the provisional dismissal would be considered
permanent?
In the instant case, the records do not clearly identify who the offended parties are, or whether
they were all notified of Judge Agnirs order of dismissal dated 29 March 1999 as they do not even
appear to have been properly named. In the absence of such evidence, the reckoning point for
computing the two (2)-year period under Sec. 8 becomes indeterminable. Assuming that Sec. 8 is
available to respondent, to which we do not even agree, still respondent has failed to discharge
his burden of proving that the two (2)-year period has indeed elapsed to make the provisional
dismissal permanent.
These circumstances cast a heavy pall of doubt on whether the dismissal of the eleven
(11) Informations has indeed attained the status of permanence as to prevent the prosecution
from refiling them. The notice requirement in the first paragraph of Sec. 8 as well as the notice of
the order of dismissal are by no means trivial formalities; they are meaningful and significant.
The offended parties, seeking justice, and vindication for the wrong done, would naturally be
keenly interested in the progress and outcome of the criminal prosecution. Hence, it is but proper
that all of them be notified of the termination of the cases and given an equal opportunity to
object to the dismissal.

_______________
14Namely, Meleubren Soronda, Pacifico Montero, Jr., and Alex Neri.

327

VOL. 400, APRIL 1, 327


2003
People vs. Lacson
A view has been expressed that respondents rights to speedy trial and to speedy disposition of
his cases were violated; this despite the fact that the right was not invoked by respondent before
us. Accordingly, the twenty-six (26) month delay in the refiling of cases relative to theKuratong
Baleleng killings is claimed to be vexatious, capricious and oppressive, and hence sufficient to
activate the protection of the Bill of Rights, specifically, on the rights to speedy trial and to
speedy disposition of his cases. Sections 14 (2) and 16, Art. III, of the 1987 Constitution
respectively provides
Sec. 14. x x x x (2) In all criminal prosecutions, the accused x x x shall enjoy the right x x x to have a speedy,
impartial and public trial x x x x
Sec. 16. All persons shall have the right to a speedy disposition of their cases before all judicial, quasi-
judicial, or administrative bodies.

These provisions uphold the time-honored tradition of speedy justice for, as stated in the oft-
repeated dictum, justice delayed is justice denied. Their express inclusion in the present
Constitution was in response to the common charge against 15
perennial delays in the
administration of justice which have plagued our judicial system.
The right to speedy trial under Sec. 14 and the right to speedy disposition of cases in Sec. 16,
both of Art. III, of the 1987 Constitution, are kindred constitutional norms similar in nature and
legal effects, sharing common operational principles, and subject to the same test for purposes of
determining violations thereof. Thus, the cornerstone of both rights is to prevent delays in the
administration of justice by requiring tribunals to proceed with reasonable dispatch in the trial
and disposition of cases.
Speedy disposition of cases, like the constitutional guarantee of speedy trial, is necessarily
relative.
16
It is consistent with delays and depends upon the circumstances of a particular
case. Verily, these rights are more indistinct concepts than other constitutional rights. It is, for
example, impossible to determine with precision when the rights have been denied. We cannot
definitely say how

_______________
15De Leon,Philippine Constitutional Law, Vol. 1, 1999 Ed., at p. 877.
16Caballero v. Alfonso,G.R. No. L-45647, 11 August 1987,153 SCRA 153.

328

328 SUPREME COURT


REPORTS
ANNOTATED
People vs. Lacson

long is too long in a system where justice is supposed to be swift but deliberate. As a consequence,
these rights cannot be quantified into a specified number of days or months. There is no fixed
point in the proceeding when a party may exercise or be deemed to have waived these rights.
Finally, the amorphous quality of the rights sometimes lead to the drastic remedy of dismissal of
a case when the rights have been infringed. This is indeed a serious consequence because it
means that an accused who may be guilty of a grave offense will go scot-free without being tried
and held responsible therefor. Such a remedy is more radical than an exclusionary rule or a
reversal for a new trial.
At any rate, the framers of the Constitution recognized the right to speedy disposition of cases
distinctly from the right to speedy trial in criminal cases. It should be noted that Sec. 16 covers
all phases before, during and after trial, and extends protection to all parties in all types of cases:
civil, criminal and administrative. In this respect, it affords a broader17 protection than Sec. 14 (2)
which guarantees merely the right to a speedy trial in criminal cases.
Against this backdrop, I turn to inquire into the parameters of the right to speedy disposition
of cases. Just how broad is its mantle of protection as applied in criminal cases? When does the
right attach during the criminal process, and when may it be properly asserted by a party? A
criminal prosecution has many stages, and delay may occur during or between any of them. As
applied in the instant case, it appears that the speedy disposition guarantee of the Bill of
Rightsis asserted to include the period of delay from the provisional dismissal of the case to its
revival or refiling since respondent is as much18entitled to a speedy reinvestigation andrefilingof
the provisionally dismissed cases against him.
Such interpretation, however, does not seem to be in consonance with the unmistakable
language, nor by the obvious intent, of Sec. 16. The provision speaks of speedy disposition of
cases before all judicial, quasi-judicial, or administrative bodies. It clearly and logically
contemplates a situation wherein there exists an outstanding case, proceeding or some incident
upon which the assertion of the right may be predicated.Evidently, it would be idle, not to say

_______________
17SeeAbadia v. Court of Appeals,G.R. No. 105597, 23 September 1994,236 SCRA 676.
18Decision, at p. 14.

329

VOL. 400, APRIL 1, 329


2003
People vs. Lacson

anomalous, to speak of speedy disposition of cases in the absence of anything to dispose of in the
first place.
A review of pertinent jurisprudence attests abundantly to the indispensable requirement of a
pending case, proceeding or some incident, as sine qua non before the constitutional
19
right to
speedy disposition of cases may be invoked. Thus, inTatad v. Sandiganbayan we held that the
long delay of three (3) years in the termination of the preliminary investigation by the
Tanodbayan was violative of the Constitutional right of speedy disposition of cases because
political motivations played a vital role in activating
20
and propelling the prosecutorial process in
this case. Similarly inDuterte v. Sandiganbayan involving an inordinatedelay in the conduct of
preliminary investigation, we ruled that such unjustified delay infringes upon the right to speedy
disposition of cases. 21
In Binay v. Sandiganbayan we ruled out any violation of petitioners right to speedy
disposition of cases despite a six-year delay from the filing of the charges in the Office of the
Ombudsman to22 the time the Informations were filed in the Sandiganbayan. Then in Dansal v.
Fernandez, Sr. we rejected the allegation of inordinate
23
delay in terminating the preliminary
investigation. Finally, inCervantes v. Sandiganbayan we held that the inordinate delay ofsix (6)
years by the Special Prosecutor (succeeding the Tanodbayan) in the filing of the initiatory
complaint before he decided to file an Information for the offense with
theSandiganbayanviolated petitioners constitutional guaranty to speedy disposition of the case.
Invariably, the foregoing cases demonstrate that the broad protective cloak of the
constitutional right to speedy disposition of cases becomes available only in instances where
preliminary proceedings have been initiated, or a case has already been filed or any other 24
incident pertaining thereto already had. As we succinctly stated inBinay v. Sandiganbayan
The right to a speedy disposition of a case, like the right to speedy trial, is deemed violated only when
theproceedingis attended by vexa-

_______________
19G.R. Nos. 72335-39, 21 March 1988,159 SCRA 70.
20G.R. No. 130191, 27 April 1998,289 SCRA 725.
21G.R. Nos. 120681-83, 1 October 1999,316 SCRA 65
22G.R. No. 126814, 2 March 2000,327 SCRA 145.
23G.R. No. 108595, 18 May 1999,302 SCRA 149.
24Supra.

330

330 SUPREME COURT


REPORTS
ANNOTATED
People vs. Lacson

tious, capricious, and oppressive delays; or when unjustified postponements of thetrial are asked for and
secured, or when without cause or unjustifiable motive a long period of time is allowed to elapse without the
party having hiscase tried(italics supplied).

It goes without saying therefore that the right to speedy disposition of cases is unavailing in the
absence of any proceedings conducted before, during, or after, trial. Significantly, there is no
precedent, for indeed there is none, to support the novel conclusion that even after the dismissal
of the cases, an accused may still invoke the constitutional guarantee.
In the case before us, nothing was left to be done after the issuance of the 29 March 1999
Order of Judge Agnir dismissing all criminal charges against respondent relative to theKuratong
Balelengincident. During the hiatus following the dismissal of the criminal charges, no formal
proceeding remained outstanding. Not even court processes were issued to restrain respondents
liberty or subject him to any form of public accusation; he was free to go about his affairs, to
practice his profession, and to continue on with his life. Respondent was legally and
constitutionally in the same posture as though no charges had been made. Hence, it was only at
the time when he was subjected to another pre-indictment investigation and accused anew that
respondent may invoke his right to speedy disposition of his cases. The delay after the charges
against him were dismissed, like any delay before those charges were filed, should not be
included in reckoning the time and determining whether he was denied his right to a speedy
disposition of his cases.
The provisional nature of the dismissal of the original criminal cases is quite immaterial. The
fact that the cases were dismissed conditionally or without prejudice to the subsequent filing of
new cases, does not make the order of dismissal any less a disposition of the cases. Although
provisional, it nonetheless terminated all proceedings against respondent such that there
remained in the meantime no pending case which the court could act upon and resolve, and
which could be made 25
the basis for the application of the right to speedy disposition of
respondents cases.

_______________
25SeealsoBaares v. Balising,G.R. No. 132624, 13 March 2000,328 SCRA 36, citingOlympia International v. Court
of Appeals,No. L-43236, 20 December 1989,180 SCRA 353, 361, wherein we held that dismissal

331

VOL. 400, APRIL 1, 331


2003
People vs. Lacson

Clearly, we would be reinventing the wheel, so to speak, if we are to include within the protective
shield of the right to speedy disposition of cases the reinvestigation and refiling of the
provisionally dismissed cases. The matter ofreinvestigationand refiling of cases at some future
time are not by themselves pending incidents related to the dismissed cases; they are mere
possibilities or expectancies. The State has no definite decision yet on whether to really
commence a reinvestigation and refiling of the cases, and only indicates, at the most, a probable
action at some future time. Until such time that the State decided to exercise these rights, they
cannot ripen into a pending case, proceeding or incident for purposes of the speedy disposition
safeguard.
Certainly, the constitutional pledge mandates merely the swift resolution or termination of a
pending case or proceeding, and not theinitiationor institution of a new case or proceeding. It
has no application to inexistent proceedings but only to those currently being undertaken. Were
we to hold otherwise, we would in effect be granting to every accused an unbridled license to
impose his will upon the State and demand that he beimmediately reinvestigated and a case filed
against him. The determination of whether to file or when to file a case lies within the sole
discretion of the prosecution depending upon the availability of his evidence and provided that it is
filed within the prescriptive period. As American Jurisprudence would hold
It requires no extended argument to establish that prosecutors do not deviate from fundamental
conceptions of justice when they defer seeking indictments until they have probable cause to believe an
accused is guilty; indeed it is unprofessional conduct for a prosecutor to recommend an indictment on less
than probable cause. It should be equally obvious that prosecutors are under no duty to file charges as soon
as prob-

_______________

without prejudice of a complaint does not however mean that the dismissal order was any less final. Such order of dismissal is
complete in all details, and though without prejudice, nonetheless finally disposed of the matter. It was not merely an interlocutory
order but a final disposition of the complaint. And inOrtigas & Company, Ltd. v. Velasco,G.R. No. 109645, 25 July 1995,234 SCRA
455, 486, the dismissal of the case, and the lapse of the reglementary period to reconsider and set aside the dismissal, effectively
operated to remove the case from the Courts docket. These doctrinal principles may be applied to provisional dismissals in criminal
cases.

332

332 SUPREME COURT


REPORTS
ANNOTATED
People vs. Lacson

able cause exists but before they are satisfied they will be able to establish the suspects guilt beyond a
reasonable doubt. To impose such a duty would have a deleterious effect both upon the rights of the accused
and upon the ability of society to protect itself. From the perspective of potential defendants, requiring
prosecutions to commence when probable cause is established is undesirable because it would increase the
likelihood of unwarranted charges being filed, and would add to the time during which defendants stand
accused but untried x x x x From the perspective of law enforcement officials, a requirement of immediate
prosecution upon probable cause is equally unacceptable because it could make obtaining proof of guilt
beyond reasonable doubt impossible by causing potentially fruitful sources of information to evaporate
before they are fully exploited. And from the standpoint of the courts, such a requirement is unwise because
it would cause scarce resources to be consumed on cases that 26
prove to be insubstantial, or that involve only
some of the responsible parties or some of the criminal acts.

To reiterate, respondents right to speedy disposition of his criminal cases attached only at that
precise moment the Department of Justice constituted a panel of prosecutors and conducted a
new preliminary investigation. Even then, the conduct of the prosecutors cannot be assailed as
violative of the speedy disposition guarantee. As shown by the records, the government can
hardly be accused of foot-dragging for, in fact, they lost no time in commencing the new
preliminary investigation and thereafter filing the correspondingInformationsin court upon the
appearance of new witnesses against respondent and his co-accused. The expeditious action of the
government in the instant case certainly cannot be viewed with suspicion.
In fairness to petitioners, they cannot be faulted in demonstrating alacrity in performing their
mandate, nor can they be castigated for the so-called unusual haste in reopening the cases
against respondent. No impure motive should be imputed to them other than the fact that they
regularly performed their duty in their apparent desire to unravel the Kuratong
Balelengmystery.
For the petitioners, this is a classic case of damn-if-you-do-and-damn-if-you-dont situation.
Petitioners are being put to task for their alleged negligence and delay in reviving the cases, but
then again, they are also being pilloried for persecuting the respondent because of the supposed
unusual haste and uncharacteristic

_______________
26United States v. Lovasco,431 U.S. 783, 97 (1977).

333

VOL. 400, APRIL 1, 333


2003
People vs. Lacson

vigor in pursuing the criminal cases against him and his co-accused.
For the reasons stated, I decline to extend to respondent the protection guaranteed by Sec. 16.
Plain common sense dictates that the provision cannot be applied to situations not contemplated
by it. Verily, we cannot expand the letter and spirit of the provision and read into it a meaning
that is not there.
This does not, of course, mean that respondent is utterly unprotected in this regard. On the
contrary, there are other constitutional and statutory mechanisms to guard against possible and
actual prejudice to the accused, resulting from the passage of time. Primarily, the statute of
limitations under Art. 90 of The Revised Penal Code is the principal safeguard against
prosecuting overly stale criminal charges. The statute represents legislative assessments of
relative interests of the State and the defendant in administering and receiving justice; it
protects not only the accused from prejudice to his defense, but also balances his 27
interest in
repose against societys interest in the apprehension and punishment of criminals. This statute
provides predictability by specifying a limit beyond which there 28
is an irrefutable presumption
that the rights of an accused to a fair trial would be prejudiced.
The purpose of a statute of limitations is to limit exposure to criminal prosecution to a certain
fixed period of time following the occurrence of those acts the legislature has decided to punish by
criminal sanctions. Such a limitation is designed to protect individuals from having to defend
themselves against charges when the basic facts may have become obscured by the passage of
time and to minimize the danger of official punishment because of acts in the far-distant past.
Such a time limit may also have the salutary effect 29
of encouraging law enforcement officials
promptly to investigate suspected criminal activity.
Moreover, the sweeping command of the Due Process Clause always protects defendants
against fundamentally unfair treatment by the government in criminal proceedings. Procedural
fairness required by due process decrees the dismissal of an indictment if it be shown that delay
caused substantial prejudice to the rights of

_______________
27United States v. Marion,404 U.S. 307(1971).
28Ibid.
29Toussie v. United States,397 U.S. 112, 114-115 (1970).

334

334 SUPREME COURT


REPORTS
ANNOTATED
People vs. Lacson

an accused to a fair trial and that the delay was an intentional device to gain tactical advantage
over the accused.
But even if we proceed on the assumption that respondent may rightfully invoke the speedy
disposition clause for the respondent, still I find that the circumstances of this case fail, to
measure up to the criteria set
30
forth under theBalancing Test.
In Caballero v. Alfonso we adopted a four-factor Balancing Test to determine whether an
accused has been denied the constitutional right to speedy disposition of his case,i.e., (a) length
of the delay, (b) reason for the delay, (c) assertion of the right or failure to assert it, and, (d)
prejudice caused by the delay.
With these relevant factors, the otherwise abstract concept of speedy disposition of cases is
provided with at least a modicum of structure. TheBalancing Test, in which the conduct of both
the prosecution and the defense are considered, prescribes flexible standards based on practical
considerations. It necessarily compels courts to approach speedy disposition cases on an ad
hocbasis. No single factor in theBalancing Testis definitive because all four (4) must be weighed
against the others in determining whether a violation of the right to speedy disposition of cases
occurred. In other words, these factors have no talismanic qualities; courts must still engage in a
difficult and sensitive balancing process. But, because we are dealing with a fundamental right of
the accused, this process must be carried out in full recognition of the 31 accuseds interest in the
speedy disposition of his case as specifically affirmed in the Constitution.
I proceed to consider the four (4) factors in theBalancing Testin seriatim. The length of delay
is to some extent a triggering mechanism. Until it is shown that the delay has crossed the
threshold dividing ordinary delay from presumptively prejudicial delay, there is no necessity for
inquiry into the other factors that go into the
_______________
30Supra. See also Binay v. Sandiganbayan, G.R. Nos. 120681-83, 1 October 1999, 316 SCRA 65; Dansal v.
Fernandez,G.R. No. 126814, 2 March 2000,327 SCRA 145; and,Socrates v. Sandiganbayan,G.R. Nos. 116259-60, 253
SCRA 773. In all these cases, the Court applied the four factors in the Balancing Test for purposes of determining
whether the accused was deprived of his right to speedy disposition of cases.
31Barker v. Wingo,407 U.S. 514(1972).

335

VOL. 400, APRIL 1, 335


2003
People vs. Lacson
32
balance. Considering the serious nature of the charges against respondent, and more
importantly, the criminal cases sought to be filed being deeply impressed with public interest,
involving as they do high ranking police officers, I am of the view that the claimed two (2) years
and three (3) months lag between the provisional dismissal of the first criminal cases on 29
March 1999 and the filing of newInformationson 6 June 2001 sketches below the bare minimum
needed to provoke such an inquiry. At any rate, I will assume, without conceding, that it is
sufficiently long for purposes of triggering a full analysis under the three (3) remaining factors.
The banner the litigants seek to capture is the second factorthe reason the government
assigns to justify the delay. Here too, different weights should be assigned to different reasons.
For instance, a deliberate attempt to delay the trial in order to hamper the defense should be
weighed heavily against the government. A more neutral reason such as negligence or
overcrowded courts should be weighed less heavily. 33
Finally, a valid reason, such as a missing
witness, should serve to justify appropriate delay.
I find it hard to accept that in the criminal cases against respondent the government is on the
wrong side of the divide between acceptable and unacceptable reasons for delaying the
prosecution of respondent. It simplistically and unrealistically assumes that the availability of
witnesses Yu and Enad prior to 2001 renders the seeming lethargy of the government
unjustifiable. It completely disregards other considerations affecting the decision of the
government to stay its entire prosecutorial machinery.
The government may delay for a variety of reasons such as to gain time in which to strengthen
and document its case. The government may also delay, not with the view of ensuring conviction
of the accused, but because the government lacks sufficient resources to move quickly. The
species of governmental delay that are anathema to the right to speedy disposition of cases are
those which are purposely or negligently employed to harm or gain impermissible advantage over
the accused at the trial. The reason is that, in such circumstance, the fair administration of
justice is imperiled.

_______________
32Ibid.
33Ibid.

336

336 SUPREME COURT


REPORTS
ANNOTATED
People vs. Lacson

In the present recourse, there is nothing to demonstrate that the delay in reviving the cases
against respondent was deliberately availed of for an impermissible purpose. It was not explained
what improper tactical advantage was gained or sought by the government; nor can I discern any
such advantage from the records. To be sure, if as claimed by respondent this whole mess is
nothing more than a pure and simple political vendetta; carried out by a poss bent on lynching
him politically and personallywhich I am not inclined to acknowledge at this stagethe
government could have moved against respondent with deliberate haste, for delay is not exactly
to its best interest.
Neither can we safely conclude that the public prosecutors are guilty of negligent omission.
Insufficiency of evidence is a legitimate reason for delay. The government is naturally not
expected to go forward with the trial and incur costs unless it is convinced it has an iron-clad case
to make a worthwhile indictment. Verily, it needs time to gather evidence, track down and collect
witnesses, as well as document its case. As to how much time it needs depends on such other
factors as34
the availability of witnesses and resources to enable it to move quickly. In U.S. v.
Lovasco it was held
x x x x investigative delay is fundamentally unlike delay under taken by the Government solely to gain
tactical advantage over the accused, precisely because investigative delay is not so one-sided. Rather than
deviating from elementary standards of fair play and decency, a prosecutor abides by them if he refuses to
seek indictments until he is completely satisfied that he should prosecute and will be able to promptly to
establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Penalizing prosecutors who defer action for these reasons would
subordinate the goal of orderly expedition to that of mere speed.

In no mean measure, the many constitutional and procedural safeguards provided an accused can
also present obstacles. It is doubly difficult in this particular case considering therecantationand
disappearance of all available vital witnesses for the prosecution.
If we were to turn the tables against the respondent, we say that the unavailability of the
witnesses for the prosecution may be attributed to the conventional tendency of our people never
to antagonize the powerful and the influential. We are not insinuating

_______________
34SeeNote 28.

337

VOL. 400, APRIL 1, 337


2003
People vs. Lacson

that respondent had a hand in the recantation or desistance of the complainants, or the non-
appearance or the shortage of witnesses for the prosecution; what we are simply saying is that
accusing an individual of respondents stature naturally engenders fear of physical harm, real or
imagined, and can intimidate even the most stout-hearted and temerarious individuals. This
circumstance should have been given weight in resolving the present controversy.
The third factorthe extent to which respondent has asserted his right to speedy disposition
of his casefurther weakens his position. When and how a defendant asserts his right should be
given strong evidentiary weight in determining whether the accused is being deprived of the
right. The more serious the deprivation, the more likely an accused is to complain. But the 35failure
to invoke the right will make it difficult for an accused to prove that he was denied thereof.
I do not think that the vigor with which respondent defended himself in the original cases
against him, and the vigilance with which he assailed the filing of the new Informations now
subject of the instant petition, is the equivalent to an assertion of his right to speedy disposition.
The trouble with this observation is that every accused in a criminal case has the intense desire
to seek acquittal, or at least to see the swift end of the accusation against him. To this end, it is
natural for him to exert every effort within his capacity to resist prosecution. But is it correct to
assume that, in every instance, the accused in resisting his criminal prosecution is also asserting
his right to speedy disposition?
Respondents reliance on Sec. 8, Rule 117, of the2000 Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure,
which some have said is based on the constitutional right to speedy disposition of cases, cannot be
equated with a positive assertion of the right to speedy disposition. A perusal of the records would
reveal that the issue of applicability of Sec. 8, Rule 117, was raised by respondent for the first
time before the Court of Appeals, in his Second Amended Petition undoubtedly a mere
afterthought. It was not his original position before the trial court, which centered on the lack of
valid complaints to justify a preliminary investigation of cases which had long been dismissed.
It was not even his initial position in the

_______________
35Ibid.

338

338 SUPREME COURT


REPORTS
ANNOTATED
People vs. Lacson

early stages of the proceedings before the Court of Appeals. Within the context of theBalancing
Test, respondents tardy, inexplicit and vague invocation of this right makes it seriously difficult
for him to prove the denial thereof.
Finally, the fourth factor is prejudice to the accused. Prejudice, of course, should be assessed in
the light of the interests of accused which the speedy disposition right as well as the speedy trial
right are designed to protect. There are three (3) of such interests: (a) to prevent oppressive
pretrial incarceration; (b) to minimize anxiety36 and concern of the accused; and, (c) to limit the
possibility that the defense will be impaired. Of the three (3), the most significant is the last
because the inability
37
of the defendant to adequately prepare his case skews the fairness of the
entire system.
Needless to say, respondent was never arrested or taken into custody, or otherwise deprived of
his liberty in any manner. These render the first criterion inapplicable. Thus, the only
conceivable harm to respondent from the lapse of time may arise from anxiety and the potential
prejudice to his ability to defend his case. Even then, the harm suffered by respondent occasioned
by the filing of the criminal cases against him is too minimal and insubstantial to tip the scales in
his favor.
Concededly, anxiety typically accompanies a criminal charge. But not every claim of anxiety
affords the accused a ground to decry a violation of the rights to speedy disposition of cases and to
speedy trial. The anxiety must be of such nature and degree that it becomes oppressive,
unnecessary and notoriously disproportionate to the nature of the criminal charge. To illustrate,
a prosecution for the serious crime of multiple murder naturally generates greater degree of
anxiety, than an indictment for, say, simple estafa. The anxiety and the tarnished reputation
and image of respondent who is, after all, presently and newly elected member of the Senate,
does not amount to that degree that would justify a nullification of the appropriate and regular
steps that must be taken to assure that while the innocent should go unpunished, those guilty
must expiate for their offense. Verily, they pale in importance to the gravity of the charges and
the paramount considerations of seeking justice for the victims as well as redeeming the sullied

_______________
36Smith v. Hooey,393 U.S. 374(1969).
37Barker v. Wingo, supra.

339

VOL. 400, APRIL 1, 339


2003
People vs. Lacson

integrity and reputation of the Philippine National Police for their alleged involvement in the
perpetration of the ghastly crimes.
We cannot therefore hold, on the facts before us, that the delay in the reinvestigation and
refiling of the criminal cases weighed sufficiently in support of the view that respondents right to
speedy disposition of his cases has been violated. The delay simply does not justify the severe
remedy of dismissing the indictments. Consistent with the views expressed above, I hold that no
constitutional, statutory and procedural impediments exist against the subsequent re-indictment
of respondent. Although we are dealing here with alleged members of the notorious Kuratong
Baleleng Gang, against whom society must be protected, we must bear in mind that they too were
human beings with human rights. Indeed, life is so precious that its loss cannot simply be
consigned to oblivion in so short a time. Withal, the seriousness of the accusations against
respondent and other high-ranking officers of the PNP goes into the very foundation of our law
enforcement institutions. We must ferret out the truth: Is the Philippine National Police so
contaminated to the core with corrupt and murderous police officers, worse than the criminal
elements they are trained to exterminate? Let us give the courts a chance to find outand more
importantlyto absolve respondent and erase any taint in his name, if innocent. Injustice
anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
I vote to GRANT theMotion for Reconsideration.

DISSENTING OPINION

PUNO,J.:

IPrecis

Our Resolution of May 28, 2002 was the result of a long and exhaustive, nay, exhausting
discussion of the meaning of section 8, Rule 117 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure. As
summed up in the newponenciaof Mr. Justice Callejo, Sr., the Court ruled that section 8, Rule
117 is applicable to the case at bar. Nonetheless evidence has to be adduced by the parties to
prove certain facts which shall determine whether said section can be beneficially invoked by
respondent Lacson. These vital facts, to quote the new
340

340 SUPREME COURT


REPORTS
ANNOTATED
People vs. Lacson

ponencia, are (1) whether the provisional dismissal of the cases had the express consent of the
accused; (2) whether notices to the offended parties were given before the cases of respondent
Lacson were dismissed by then Judge Agnir, Jr.; (3) whether there were affidavits of desistance
executed by the relatives of the three (3) other victims; (4) whether the 2-year period to revive the
cases has already lapsed; (5) whether there is any justification for the re-filing of the cases
beyond the 2-year period; (6) whether the reckoning date of the 2-year bar shall be from the date
of the order of then Judge Agnir, Jr. dismissing the cases, or from the dates of receipt thereof by
the various offended parties, or from the date of effectivity of the new rule; and (7) if the cases
were revived only after the 2-year bar, the State must justify its failure to comply with the said
time-bar. Thus, the case at bar was remanded to the RTC-Quezon City, Branch 81 to enable the
parties to adduce evidence on these factual issues. On the basis of the evidence to be presented,
the trial court will rule on the applicability of section 8, Rule 117 to respondent Lacson.
It is noteworthy that except forJJ. Melo and Carpio, who inhibited themselves, the resolution
was a unanimous one. The newponencianow seeks to reverse the unanimous resolution of this
Court. The Court has four new members and the passage of time has put a mist on some of the
themes and sub-themes considered in the discussion of section 8, Rule 117. I wish therefore to
restate my humble understanding of section 8, Rule 117, as chairman of the Committee on
Revision of the Rules of Court that drafted the said rule.
I start with the statement that the Committee was confronted with the following problem:

1. A complaint or information has been filed with a court of competent jurisdiction;


2. The prosecution after a number of settings cannot proceed with the case for some reasons
but usually due to the unavailability of the complainant or witnesses to testify;
3. The accused is ready to proceed but cannot move to dismiss the case and invoke his right
to speedy trial because the delay of the prosecution is not yet unreasonable;
4. As a half-way measure and to relieve himself of the heavy burden of a pending criminal
case, the accused agrees to a provisional dismissal of the complaint or information against
him;

341

VOL. 400, APRIL 1, 341


2003
People vs. Lacson

5. Under the rules and case-law prior to year 2000, the provisional dismissal of a criminal
case is open-ended. The case can be revived by the prosecution without any time limit
except when it is already barred by prescription. It is not unusual for the case to be frozen
for an unreasonable length of time. It remains in the docket of the court and contributes
to its clogging. Worse, it hangs like a sword of Damocles over the head of the accused. It
can fall principally depending on the predilection and prejudice of the prosecutor.

First. It was this undesirable situation that the Committee on Revision of the Rules of Court
addressed when it designed section 8, Rule 117 of the 2000 Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure.
The Courten bancfound no difficulty appreciating the rationale of the new rule for it approved
the rule with but a minor amendment. The amendment lengthened the time within which the
prosecution can revive the provisionally dismissed case in offenses punishable by more than six
(6) years of imprisonment. The time to revive was stretched to two (2) years after a survey was
made of offenses punishable by imprisonment of six (6) years or more and a study of its probable
adverse impact on the government campaign against crimes.In promulgating the new rule, the
Court en banc struck a fine balance between the sovereign right of the State to prosecute crimes
and the inherent right of the accused to be protected from the unnecessary burdens of criminal
litigation. The timeline within which provisionally dismissed cases can be revived forms the crux
of the delicate balance.
Second.Section 8, Rule 117 is a rule that gives an accused a new right that is distinct from,
among others, the right to speedy trial and the right against double jeopardy. The resistance to
recognize this new right and the effort to unnecessarily link it with other rights of the accused
are the main causes
1
of its misunderstanding. Thus, section 8, Rule 117 should not be confused
with Rule 119 which is the rule of procedure that implements the constitutional right of an
accused tospeedy trial. The confusion can obliterate the difference in the time requirements in
the two rules. The right to speedy trial is determined by a flexible time standard. We resolve
claims of denial of theright to speedy trialbybalancingthe fol-

_______________
1Rule 119 was taken from RA No. 8493 entitled An Act to Insure a Speedy Trial of All Criminal Cases Before the
Sandiganbayan, Regional Trial Court, Metropolitan Trial Court, Municipal Trial Court and Municipal Circuit Trial
Court which became effective on September 15, 1998.

342

342 SUPREME COURT


REPORTS
ANNOTATED
People vs. Lacson

lowing factors: (1) the duration of the delay, (2) the reason thereof, (3) the assertion of the right or
failure to assert it by the accused, and (4) the prejudice caused by such delay. On the other hand,
the timeline that restricts the right of the State to revive a case in a section 8, Rule 117 situation
isinflexibleif it is shown that it has slept on its right without reason. Section 8, Rule 117 should
not also be confused with section 3(i), Rule 117 which is the rule of procedure that protects the
constitutional right of an accused against double jeopardy. Again, the two rules are distinct,
hence, it is not proper to require the element of prior plea in double jeopardy cases in a section 8,
Rule 117 situation. In fine, section 8, Rule 117 is a new rule that is complete by itself and should
not be construed in light of rules implementing other rights of an accused.
Third. The provisional dismissal under section 8 of Rule 119 becomespermanentafter the lapse
of one or two years depending on the gravity of the offense involved. There can be no hedging on
the meaning of the word permanent for the new rule used the word without a bit of
embroidery. To be emphatic, the lapse of the one (1) or two (2) years time puts a period to the
provisionally dismissed case and not a mere comma. It is true that during the deliberations of the
Committee, the provision was originally worded as follows: The corresponding order shall state
that the provisional dismissal shall become permanent and amount to acquittal one (1) year after
its issuance without the case having been revived. In the final version of the provision, however,
the phrase amount to acquittal was deleted. The deletion was dictated by the belief that the
phrase was a redundancy in light of the clear and unequivocal import of the word permanent.
The deletion cannot be distorted to mean that a case permanently dismissed can still be
revived.For if that were the intent, the rule could have easily stated that the accused whose case
has been permanently dismissed could nevertheless be prosecuted for the same offense.
Fourth. The permanent dismissal of an unrevived case under section 8, Rule 117 does
not unduly shorten the prescriptive period of offenses provided for in Articles 90 and 91 of the
Revised Penal Code. The new rule merely regulates the conduct of the prosecution of an offense
once the case is tiled in court. It cannot be doubted thatafter a case is filed in court, its conduct by
the prosecution can be regulated by rules of procedure which are within the exclusive power of
this Court to promulgate. More specifically, the new ruleregulates the timewhen the State must
complete theprosecution of
343

VOL. 400, APRIL 1, 343


2003
People vs. Lacson

a pendingcase after its provisional dismissal. It provides theconsequencewhen the State sleeps
on its duty to revive a provisionally dismissed case. If the State loses the right, to continue the
prosecution of an offense already filed in court, it is not because the rule has amended the
prescriptive period of the crime provided by our substantive law. Rather, it is a simple case where
the State forfeited its right to prosecute by its own inaction, an inaction that unless justified cannot
be allowed to further impair the rights of an accused.
Fifth. The permanent dismissal under section 8, Rule 117 precludes the prosecution of the
accused for thesame offense under a new information. Again, it is true that we have rulings to
the effect that a trial court may, in the interest of justice, dismiss a case provisionally but without
prejudice to reinstating it before the order of dismissal becomes final or without prejudice to the
subsequent filing of a new information for the same offense. But note should be taken of the
important fact that these rulings were handed downbeforesection 8, Rule 117 came into being.
Section 8, Rule 117changed the old rulethat dismissals which are provisional in character lack
the imprimatur of finality, hence, they do not bar the revival of the offense charged or the filing of
a new information for the same offense. The old rule was precisely jettisoned by the Committee
and by this Court because of its unfairness to the accused. Again, I respectfully submit that the
new rule would be useless if it would leave unfettered the discretion of the prosecutor in reviving
the same offense under the fig leaf of a new information.
Sixth. I do not share the thesis that the re-filing of Criminal Cases Nos. Q-01-101102 to Q-01-
101112 isnot a revivalof Criminal Cases Nos. Q-99-81679 to Q-99-81689. There cannot be any
dispute on the meaning of the word revival in section 8, Rule 117.Revival meansreanimating or
renewing the case that has become dormant because of its provisional dismissal. The cases that
were provisionally dismissed for lack of probable cause refer to the eleven (11) Informations for
murder filed against the respondent,et al.,allegedly for the summary execution of some members
of the Kuratong Baleleng gang. Without doubt, these are the same cases re-filed against the
respondent after another preliminary investigation with the principal difference that respondent
is now charged as a principal and no longer as an accessory.
344

344 SUPREME COURT


REPORTS
ANNOTATED
People vs. Lacson

I respectfully submit that the test to determine whether a case can be revivedis not whether a
new preliminary investigation has been conducted by the prosecution. That test, if allowed, would
torture out of context the intent of section 8, Rule 117. The new rule speaks of case and
offenses. It clearly prohibits the revival of the case against an accused which has been
provisionally dismissed for failure of the State to continue its prosecution without any
justification. I like to underscore thatthe prohibition against revival is not a free gift by the State
to an accused. The right against revival is the result of a trade-off of valuable rights for the
accused can exercise it only if he surrenders his right to an early permanent dismissal of the case
against him due to the inability of the State to prosecute. In so doing, the accused suffers a
detriment for he gives the State one to two years to revive a case which has already been frozen
for failure to prosecute. During this waiting period, the accused cannot move to dismiss the
charge against him while the State can locate its missing witnesses, secure them if they are
threatenedand even gather new evidence. In exchange for this period of grace given to the State,
the rule sets atimelinefor the prosecutors to revive the caseagainstthe accused. The timeline is
fixed for theaccused has suffered an indubitable detrimentand thetrade-offfor this detriment is
the duty imposed on the prosecution either to continue or discontinue with the case within the 1
or 2-year grace period. We cannot allow the undue extension of this detriment unless the State
can show compelling reasons to justify its failure to prosecute.The open-ended practice under the
old rule which makes provisional dismissal permanently provisional is precisely the evil sought to
be extirpated by section 8, Rule 117.
Seventh. I wish to stress thebigger reasonfor section 8, Rule 117. The new rule does enhance
the constitutional rights of an accused to speedy trial and speedy disposition of the case(s) against
himbut it is much more than that. More broadly,the new rule was designed to achieve one of the
end-goals of the criminal processto minimize the burdens of accusation and litigation. This2 end-
goal is well explained byLa FaveandIsrael, conceded authorities in Criminal Procedure,viz:

_______________
2Criminal Procedure, Hornbook Series, p. 27, 1988 edition.

345

VOL. 400, APRIL 1, 345


2003
People vs. Lacson

(d)Minimizing the Burdens of Accusation and Litigation. Even though eventually acquitted, an innocent
person charged with a crime suffers substantial burdens. The accusation casts a doubt on the persons
reputation that is not easily erased. Frequently, the public remembers the accusation and still suspects guilt
even after an acquittal. Moreover, even where an acquittal is accepted as fully vindicating the accused, it
hardly remedies other costs suffered in the course of gaining that verdict. The period spent by the accused
awaiting trial commonly is filled with a substantial degree of anxiety and insecurity that disrupts the daily
flow of his life. That disruption is, of course, even greater if he is incarcerated pending trial. The accused
also must bear the expense and ordeal of the litigation process itself.

This end-goal is by no means novel. We have various rules of criminal procedure to minimize the
burdens of litigation. Our rules on bail, venue, double jeopardy, speedy trial, speedy disposition of
cases,etc., are among them. In fine, we have been promulgating rules to minimize the burdens of
litigation for a long, long time.
Let me also underscore that section 8, Rule 117 was promulgated in the exercise of
the expanded power of this Court to enact rules of procedure under section 5(5) of the 1987
Constitution,viz:
SEC. 5. The Supreme Court shall have the following powers:
x x x x x x x x x
(5) Promulgate rules concerning the protection and enforcement of constitutional rights, pleading,
practice, and procedure in all courts, the admission to the practice of law, the Integrated Bar, and legal
assistance to the underprivileged. Such rules shall provide a simplified and inexpensive procedure for the
speedy disposition of cases, shall be uniform for all courts of the same grade, and shall not diminish,
increase, or modify substantive rights. Rules of procedure of special courts and quasi-judicial bodies shall
remain effective unless disapproved by the Supreme Court.
3
This provision expanded the rule making power of this Court for (1) it extended its power not
onlyto cover pleading, practice and

_______________
3Section 5 (5) of The 1973 Constitution provides:
x x x
(5) Promulgate rules concerning pleading, practice, and procedure in all courts, the admission to the practice of law, and the
integration of the Bar, which, however, may be repealed, altered, or supplemented by the Batasang Pambansa. Such rules shall provide
a simplified and inexpensive procedure for the speedy disposition of

346

346 SUPREME COURT


REPORTS
ANNOTATED
People vs. Lacson

procedure in all courts, admission to the practice of law and the integration of the Barbut also to
encompass the protection and enforcement of constitutional rights and legal assistance to the
underprivileged, and (2) it no longer contained the restriction
4
that said rules may be repealed,
altered or supplemented by the Batasang Pambansa. As aforediscussed, section 8, Rule 117 was
designed to diminish the burdens of litigation by fixing a timeline on provisional dismissal of
cases beyond which they cannot be revived. The regulation of the conduct of a criminal case once
filed in court, including the time within which it must be terminated, is inherent in judicial
power. Section 8, Rule 117 is an exercise of this power, a power that this Court has exercised
without any question since the 1935 Constitution.
IIThe dismissal of the cases against
respondent Lacson bears his express consent

This Court did not err when it ruled that the provisional dismissal of the case against
respondent Lacson bears his express consent.
The records will show that respondent Lacson filed before then Judge Agnir, Jr. who was to try
Criminal Cases Nos. Q-99-81679 to Q-99-81689, amotion for judicial determination of probable
cause. The motion contained the following prayer:
x x x x x x x x x

_______________

cases, shall be uniform for all courts of the same grade, and shall not diminish, increase, or modify substantive rights.
4Commenting on the change, author Nolledo observed:

The rule-making power of the Supreme Court has been made exclusive to it. The power of the Congress to alter the rules promulgated
by the Highest Court has been removed. For the Congress to interfere with the Supreme Court promulgated within the competence of
the Highest Tribunal is unconstitutional and now violative of the separation of powers. Even the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court
cannot be enlarged without the consent of the latter.
(The New Constitution of the Philippines Annotated 690 [1990])

347

VOL. 400, APRIL 1, 347


2003
People vs. Lacson

(1) a judicial determination of probable cause pursuant to section 2, Article III of the Constitution be
conducted by this Honorable Court, and for this purpose, an order be issued directing the prosecution
to present the private complainants and their witnesses at a hearing scheduled therefore; and
(2) warrants for the arrest of the accused-movants be withheld, or, if issued recalled in the meantime
until the resolution of this incident.
5
Other equitable reliefs are also prayed for.

In ruling that the dismissal of the cases against respondent Lacson did not bear his consent, the
ponencia states
6
that x x x respondentmerelyfiled a motion for judicial determination of probable
cause x x x. It emphasizes that no motion for provisional dismissal of the cases was filed. With
due respect, the effort to distinguish the two motions is futile for it is seeking a distinction when
there is no difference. The essence of both motions is the lack of probable cause of the
Informations. If the motions succeed, there is only one course of action for the judge to taketo
dismiss the Informations. For all intents and purposes, a motion for judicial determination of
probable cause can be treated as a motion to dismiss for lack of probable cause. Thus, Judge
Agnir, Jr. prefaced the resolution of respondent Lacsons motion in this wise:
Before the Court are five (5) separate but identical motions filed thru their respective counsel by the
twenty-six (26) accused in the above numbered cases, praying the Court to (1) make a judicial determination
of the existence of probable cause for the issuance of warrants of arrest, (2) to hold in abeyance the issuance
of warrants in the meantime, and (3) todismiss the cases should the court find lack of probable cause.
Prescinding from this understanding, then Judge Agnir, Jr. issued his Resolution dismissing
Criminal Cases Nos. Q-99-81679 to Q-99-81689,viz:
As already seen, the documents attached to the Informations in support thereof have been rendered
meaningless, if not absurd, with the recantation of the principal prosecution witnesses and the desistance of
the private complainants. There is no more evidence to show that a crime has been committed and that the
accused are probably guilty thereof. Following the doctrine above-cited, there is no more reason to hold the

_______________
5RTC Records, Vol. X, p. 232.
6Resolution, p. 8.

348

348 SUPREME COURT


REPORTS
ANNOTATED
People vs. Lacson

accused for trial and further expose them to an open and public accusation. It is time to writefinisto these
cases and lay to rest the ghost of the incident of May 18, 1995 so that all those involvedthe accused, the
prosecution witnesses and the private complainants alikemay get on with their lives.
The Court is not unmindful of the admonition in the recent case ofPeople vs. Court of Appeals(G.R. No.
126005,301 SCRA 475, January 21, 1999) where the Supreme Court said that the general rule is that if the
Information is valid on its face and there is no showing of manifest error, grave abuse of discretion or
prejudice on the part of the public prosecutor, courts should not dismiss it for want of evidence, because
evidentiary matters should be presented and heard during the trial, and that the ruling in Allado vs.
Diokno is an exception to the general rule and may be invoked only if similar circumstances are clearly
shown to exist.
This Court holds that the circumstances in the case at bench clearly make an exception to the general
rule.
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Court finds no probable cause for the issuance of the
warrants of arrest against the accused or to hold them for trial.Accordingly, the Informations in the above-
numbered cases are hereby ordered dismissed.
SO ORDERED. (emphasis supplied)

To justify his ruling, the ponente insists that respondent did not pray for the dismissal,
provisional or otherwise, of Criminal Cases Nos. Q-99-81679 to Q-99-81689, 7
neither did he ever
agree, impliedly or expressly, to a mere provisional dismissal of the case. With due respect, the
specific prayer demanded by theponenteis unnecessary. Under Rule 112, section 6 of the 2000
Rules of Criminal Procedure, the judge may immediately dismiss the case if the evidence on
record clearly fails to establish probable cause. Likewise, the motion for judicial determination of
probable cause prayed for other equitable reliefs. Similarly, there need not be any agreement on
the provisional character of the dismissal of the said cases. The cases were dismissed not on the
merits but for lack of probable cause and before the arraignment of respondent Lacson. Their
dismissal was provisional by operation of our rules.
Theponenciathen cites certain judicial admissions by the counsel of respondent Lacson to
the effect that they did not move to dismiss the Informations against said respondent nor agree to
their provisional dismissal. Again with due respect, these so called

_______________
7Id., at p. 9.
349

VOL. 400, APRIL 1, 349


2003
People vs. Lacson

admissions should be taken in their proper context. These admissions were made in the
course of the proceedings before the Court of Appeals. The parties then were arguing that the re-
filing of the cases will violate the rule on double jeopardy. Naturally, respondent Lacson took the
position that his right against double jeopardy would be violated, hence, he was insisting that the
dismissal of the cases was without his express consent. Naturally too, the petitioner took the
opposite view that the rule on double jeopardy would not be breached because respondent
consented to their dismissal. If theponenciawill hold respondent Lacson to his admission that
he did not consent to the dismissal of his cases, it should similarly hold petitioner to its
admission that respondent consented to the dismissal of the cases against him. In truth, the
evidentiary rule on admission governs the act, declaration or omission of a party as to a
relevantfact and should not be applied onargumentsof parties.The issue in the case at bar is the
nature and effect of a motion for judicial determination of probable causei.e., whether or not it
can be treated by a motion to dismiss on the ground of lack of probable cause. The issue is
basically legal, and should be resolved in accordance with our laws and not on the basis of the
arguments of parties which are often twisted to serve their peculiar interests.

IIIIt is not clear whether the offended parties


had knowledge of the dismissal
of their Informations against respondent Lacson

In our resolution under reconsideration, we explained why there is uncertainty on the factual
issue of whether notices were sent to the offended parties,viz:
x x x
The records of the case, however, do not reveal with conclusiveness whether notices to the offended
parties were given before the cases against the respondent Lacson were dismissed by Judge Agnir. It
appears from the resolution of Judge Agnir that the relatives of the victims who desisted did not appear
during the hearing. Their affidavits of desistance were only presented by Atty. Godwin Valdez who testified
that he assisted the private complainants in preparing their affidavits and he signed them as a witness.It
also appears that only seven (7) personssubmitted their affidavits of desistance, namely:

350

350 SUPREME COURT


REPORTS
ANNOTATED
People vs. Lacson

a. Myrna Abalora, mother of the victims Sherwin Abalora and Rey Abalora;
b. Carmelita Elcamel, wife of Wilbur Elcamel;
c. Leonora Amora, mother of victim Joel Amora;
d. Nenita Alap-ap, wife of victim Carlito Alap-ap;
e. Imelda Montero, wife of victim Manuel Montero;
f. Margarita Redillas, mother of victim Hilario Jevy Redillas; and
g. Rolando Siplon

From the records of the case before us, it cannot be determined whether there were affidavits of desistance
executed by the relatives of the three (3) other victims, namely: Meleubren Soronda, Pacifico Montero, Jr., and
Alex Neri. The same records do not show whether they were notified of the hearing or had knowledge
thereof.To be sure, it is not fair to expect the element of notice to be litigated before then Judge Agnir for
Section 8, Rule 117 was yet inexistent at that time.
The fact of notice to the offended parties was not raised either in the petition for prohibition with
application for temporary restraining order or writ of preliminary injunction filed by respondent Lacson in
the RTC of Manila, presided by Judge Pasamba, to enjoin the prosecutors from reinvestigating the said
cases against him. The only question raised in said petition is whether the reinvestigation will violate the
right of respondent Lacson against double jeopardy. Thus, the issue of whether or not the reinvestigation is
barred by Section 8, Rule 117 was not tackled by the litigants.
Nor was the fact of notice to the offended parties the subject of proof after the eleven (11) informations for
murder against respondent Lacson and company were revived in the RTC of Quezon City presided by Judge
Yadao. There was hardly any proceeding conducted in the case for respondent Lacson immediately filed a
petition for certiorari in the appellate court challenging, among others, the authority of Judge Yadao to
entertain the revived informations for multiple murder against him.
This is not to be wondered at.The applicability of Section 8, Rule 117 was never considered in the trial
court. It was in the Court of Appeals where respondent Lacson raised for the first time the argument that
Section 8, Rule 117 bars the revival of the multiple murder cases against him. But even then, the appellate
court did not require the parties to elucidate the crucial issue of whether notice were given to the offended
parties before Judge Agnir ordered the dismissal of the cases against respondent Lacson and company. To be
sure, there is a statement in the Decision of the appellate court to the effect that records show that the
prosecution and the private offended parties were notified of the hearing x x x. It is doubtful whether this
finding is supported by the records of the case. It appears to

351

VOL. 400, APRIL 1, 351


2003
People vs. Lacson

be contrary to Judge Agnirs finding that only seven (7) of the complainants submitted affidavits of
desistance. (emphases supplied)

Theponenciawill reverse this ruling on the following ratiocination:


In the case at bar, even if the respondents motion for a determination of probable cause and examination of
witnesses may be considered for the nonce, as his motion for a provisional dismissal of Criminal Cases Nos.
Q-99-81679 to Q-99-81689, however,the heirs of the victims were not notified thereof prior to the hearingon
said motion on May 22, 1999. It must be stressed that the respondent filed his motion only on May 17, 1999
and set it for hearing on May 22, 1999 or barely five days from the filing thereof. Although the public
prosecutor was served with a copy of the motion, the records do not show that notices thereof were
separately given to the heirs of the victims or that subpoena were issued to and received by them including
those who executed their affidavits of desistance who were residents of Dipolog City or Pian, Zamboanga
del Norte or Palompon, Leyte. There is as well no proof in the records that the public prosecutor notified the
heirs of the victims of said motion or of the hearing thereof on May 22, 1999. Although Atty. Valdez entered
his appearance as private prosecutor, he did so only for some but not all the close kins of the victims,
namely, Nenita Alap-ap, Imelda Montero, Margarita Redillas, Rufino Siplon, Carmelita Elcamel, Myrna
Abalora, and Leonora Amora who (except for Rufino Siplon) executed their respective affidavits of
desistance. There was no appearance for the heirs of Alex Neri, Pacifico Montero, Jr. and Meleubren
Sorronda. In fine, there never was any attempt on the part of the trial court, the public prosecutor and/or
the private prosecutor to notify all the heirs of the victims of the respondents motion and the hearing
thereon. The said heirs were thus deprived of their right to be heard on the respondents motion and to
protect their interests. (emphasis supplied)

Again, I beg to disagree. Theponenciacites the records of the cases to justify its conclusion that
notices were not sent to the offended parties. I cannot be as dogmatic as theponente. As stated in
our Resolution, section 8, Rule 117 was not yet in existence when then Judge Agnir, Jr. resolved
respondent Lacsons motion for judicial determination of probable cause. It is, therefore,
unrealistic to look only at the records of the cases to determine compliance with yet an inexistent
rule. To my mind, what ought to be done is to determine whether the offended parties had
knowledge of respondent Lacsons motion for judicial determination of probable cause. They may
have such knowledge despite lack of formal
352

352 SUPREME COURT


REPORTS
ANNOTATED
People vs. Lacson

notice from the court or notice from the public and private prosecutors. It ought to be beyond
argument that such a formal notice is only one source of knowledge of the offended parties.
Moreover, there is the unresolved question of who are the offended parties in the case at bar. It
will be noted that in some of the criminal cases dismissed by then Judge Agnir, Jr., those who
executed affidavits of desistance were the wives, or the mothers of the victims. Are they the only
offended parties or should the other heirs be included? Should all of them be notified? These
and other questions should first be resolved by the trial court, hence, our resolution to remand.

IVSection 8, Rule 117 of the


2000 Rules of Criminal Procedure
applies retroactively

Theponenciacorrectly holds that section 8, Rule 117 of the 2000 Rules of Criminal Procedure is
not a statute of limitations. As postulated in the precis, the one-year or two-year bar is a special
procedural rule qualifying the right of the State to prosecute cases already filed in court. The
time-bar under the new rule does not curtail the periods under Article 90 of the Revised Penal
Code. The State retains the full period under Article 90 of the Revised Penal Code within which
to secure the necessary evidence and file the appropriate criminal cases against the accused. But
once the State files a criminal case and involves the courts, the constitutional power of this Court
to set the rules of procedure for the prosecution of cases cannot be doubted. The power belongs to
this Courtaloneand there are no uncertain umbras and penumbras in its parameters which other
branches of the government can claim.
To emphasize, the time-bar for the revival of provisionally dismissed cases was adopted for the
purpose, among others, of (1) discouraging hasty and baseless filing of criminal cases; and (2)
penalizing the State for itsinexcusable delayin court. Its purpose is to press the State to act on
cases it has inexcusably put in deep slumber in our courts of justice, it provides relief to the
accused who are prejudiced when the cases filed in court against them remain dormant for an
unreasonable length of time. In fine, the now rule is a remedial rule that looks back even as it
looks for-
353

VOL. 400, APRIL 1, 353


2003
People vs. Lacson

ward. It reaches both the past and the future. It is both retrospective and prospective.
To be sure, there is nothing novel in the new rule when it reaches the past. Under the ruling
case law, statutes regulating the procedure 8
of courts are applicable to actions pending and
undetermined at the time of its passage. The retroactive application of procedural rules cannot
be challenged as violative of any right of a person who may feel that he is adversely affected. The
reason9
is that as a general rule, no vested right may attach to, nor give rise from, procedural
laws.
The only conceivable exception to this general rule is if the retroactive
10
application of the
procedural rule would not be feasible or would work injustice. As amply demonstrated,
however, the new rule will not impair the right of the State to prosecute criminals. The State is
not prejudiced by the time-bar if it can justify its delay in the prosecution of cases. If it cannot
justify its delay, it cannot complain of unfairness.No government can claim the right to prosecute
at its perpetual pleasure. It cannot file a criminal case and sleep on it. It is self-evident that
inexcusable delays in the prosecution of a case deny an accused the right to a fair trial.
With due respect, I submit that the ponenciasends a wrong message in batting only for the
prospective application of the new rule. To hold that the State could not be faulted for not
reviving the case within two years simply because the new rule was not yet in effect implies that
this Court sanctions delays in the prosecution of cases, however inexcusable the delays were.
Pushed to the extreme, the majority in effect bars the application of the new rule to cases
provisionally dismissed five or ten years ago on the simple reason that during the interregnum,
the new rule was not yet in effect.Let us not half pause in applying the new rule for it addresses
inexcusable delays in the prosecution of cases already filed in court. Devoid of legalese, it tells the
State not to sleep on its job. If we cannot tell the prosecution to do its job within a reasonable time
frame, we might as well close shop.

_______________
8Tan, Jr. v. Court of Appeals,G.R. No. 136368, January 16, 2002,373 SCRA 524.
9Billones v. Court of Industrial Relations,14 SCRA 674, 681 (1965).
10Gregoria v. Court of Appeals,26 SCRA 229(1968).

354

354 SUPREME COURT


REPORTS
ANNOTATED
People vs. Lacson

IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, I vote to DENY petitioners Motion for Reconsideration.

SEPARATE OPINION
VITUG,J.:

Petitioners argue that while Section 8, Rule 117, of the Rules of Criminal Procedure bars the
revival of a case upon the lapse of the one-year period or the two-year period, as the case may be,
after its provisional dismissal, the rule, however, does not contain any proscription against the
filing of a new information involving the same incident so long as it is done within prescriptive
period of the offense provided in Article 90 and Article 91 of the Revised Penal Code or such as
may otherwise be expressed by statute.
Prescription of crimes pertains1 to the loss or waiver by the State of its right to prosecute an act
prohibited and punished by law. It is the policy of the law that prosecutions should be prompt
and that statutes enforcing that promptitude should be maintained, these provisions being not
merely acts of grace but checks imposed by the State upon itself to exact vigilant activity 2
from
its subalterns and to secure for criminal trials the best evidence that can be obtained. Once a
criminal case is instituted, the issue on prescription is addressed and the rule on prescription as a
substantive provision would have then so served its purpose. Thenceforth, assuming the timely
filing of the case, the rules of procedure promulgated by the Supreme Court must govern. In fine,
while Article 90 and Article 91 of the Revised Penal Code fix the period when the State must file
a case against an accused after the discovery of the crime by the offended party, Section 8, Rule
117, of the Rules of Criminal Procedure, however, applies once an action has been instituted. The
substantive provisions govern the institution of the case; the procedural rules steps in thereafter.
The Supreme Court is vested by the Constitution with 3
the power to promulgate rules concerning
x x x pleading, practice, and procedure in all courts. The 1987 Charter not only has deleted the

_______________
1People vs. Montenegro,68 Phil 659;People vs. Moran,44 Phil 405.
2Wharton onCriminal Pleading and Practice, 9th ed., 1889, sec. 316, p. 215, cited inPeople vs. Moran, supra.
3Section 5, par. 5, 1987 Constitution.

355

VOL. 400, APRIL 1, 355


2003
People vs. Lacson

authority of the legislature to repeal, alter or supplement the rules promulgated by the Court but
it also expanded the 4 Courts rule-making power to cover the protection and enforcement of
constitutional rights. Pursuant to this Constitutional mandate, the Supreme Court has
incorporated Section 8, Rule 117, in the Rules of Criminal Procedure,viz:
SEC. 8.Provisional dismissal.A case shall not be provisionally dismissed except with the express consent
of the accused and with notice to the offended party.
The provisional dismissal of offenses punishable by imprisonment not exceeding six (6) years or a fine of
any amount, or both, shall become permanent one (1) year after issuance of the order without the case
having been revived. With respect to offenses punishable by imprisonment of more than six (6) years, their
provisional dismissal shall become permanent two (2) years after issuance of the order without the case
having been revived.

In this regard, I share the conclusions reached by my esteemed colleague, Justice Reynato S.
Puno, that there are yet a number of factors that must first be established and considered mainly
evidentiary, before this Court can appropriately rule on the applicability of Section 8, Rule 117, of
the Rules of Criminal Procedure.
_______________

SEC. 5. The Supreme Court shall have the following powers:


x x x x x x x x x
(5) Promulgate rules concerning the protection and enforcement of constitutional rights, pleading, practice, and procedure in all
courts, the admission to the practice of law, the Integrated Bar, and legal assistance to the underprivileged. Such rules shall provide a
simplified and inexpensive procedure for the speedy disposition of cases, shall be uniform for all courts of the same grade, and shall not
diminish, increase, or modify substantive rights. Rules of procedure of special courts and quasi-judicial bodies shall remain effective
unless disapproved by the Supreme Court.
4Id.

356

356 SUPREME COURT


REPORTS
ANNOTATED
People vs. Lacson

DISSENTING OPINION

SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ,J.:

I find petitioners motion for reconsideration of our Resolution dated May 28, 2002 bereft of merit.
The cases filed against respondent Senator Panfilo M. Lacson should be DISMISSED on the
grounds that his constitutional right to speedy trial and speedy disposition of cases has been
violated and that the filing of new Informations against him constitutes persecution.
Also, I maintain that Section 8, Rule 117 of the 2000 Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, an
implementing Rule of the right to speedy trial and speedy disposition of cases applies to
respondents cases upon a showing before the trial court that its requirements have been
complied with.

I.Respondents constitutional
right to speedy trial and
speedy disposition of his cases
has been violated.
1
Statutes cannot be effective to place any limitation on a persons constitutional right,
2
and
therefore they should not be regarded as a definition of the constitutional provision. It is thus
conceivable
3
that the constitutional provision is violated although its implementing statute is
not. This is because constitutions are not adopted to control the rights and 4
procedures of the
moment but to establish broad principles of justice and fair playfor all time.
The present controversy brings into focus the novel provision, Section 8, Rule 117 of the 2000
Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, which reads:

_______________
121Am Jur 2d 1031 citingEx parte State ex rel. Atty. Gen., 255 Ala. 443, 52 So. 2d 158 (1951);Hicks vs. People, 148
Colo. 26, 364 P. 2d 877 (1961);State vs. Strong, 8 Kan. App. 2d 589, 663 P. 2d 668 (1983);State vs. Stimson, 41 Was. App.
385, 704 P. 2d 1220 (Div. 3 1985).
2State vs. Kuhnhausen, 201 Or. 478, 272 P. 2d 225 (1954).
3Barela vs. People, 826 P. 2d 1249 (Colo. 1992)State vs. Russel,108 Idaho 58, 696 P. 2d 909 (1985);State vs. Strong,

supra.
4State vs. Kuhnhausen, supra.

357

VOL. 400, APRIL 1, 357


2003
People vs. Lacson

Sec. 8.Provisional Dismissal.A case shall not be provisionally dismissed except with the express consent
of the accused and with notice to the offended party.
The provisional dismissal of offenses punishable by imprisonment not exceeding six (6) years or a fine of
any amount, or both shall become permanent one (1) year after issuance of the order without the case
having been revived.With respect to offenses punishable by imprisonment of more than six (6) years, their
provisional dismissal shall become permanent two years after issuance of the order without the case having
been revived. (Emphasis supplied)

In our Resolution now being challenged by petitioners in their Motion for Reconsideration, we
held that the above Rule is inapplicable to the cases of respondent because the records fail to
show that its requirements have been complied with. These requirements as applied to his cases
are: the provisional dismissal by the Regional Trial Court, Branch 81, Quezon City of Criminal
Cases Nos. Q-99-81679 to 89 against respondent must have been with his express consent and
with notice to the offended parties; and the reckoning date of the two-year period within which to
revive the cases should have been properly determined. Consequently, in the same Resolution, we
remanded the case at bar to the trial court to enable the parties to adduce evidence on whether
the said requirements have been complied with on the basis of which the trial court should rule
on whether the newly filed Criminal Cases Nos. 01-101102 to 01-101112 against respondent
should be dismissed or not.
In petitioners Motion for Reconsideration, they contend that the retroactive application of
Section 8, Rule 117 violates the peoples right to due process; and that for lack of express consent
of respondent and prior notice to the offended parties, the Rule does not apply to his cases.
The novelty of Section 8, Rule 117 somehow shades the more important issue of whether
respondents constitutional right to speedy trial and disposition of cases has been violated.
Section 8 of Rule 117 was promulgated pursuant to the constitutional guarantee of speedy trial
and speedy disposition of cases. Clearly, there can be no automatic inference that because Section
8 was found to be inapplicable, as claimed by petitioners, respondents right to speedy trial and
speedy disposition of his cases was not violated. Lest we miss the forest for the trees, extreme
caution
358

358 SUPREME COURT


REPORTS
ANNOTATED
People vs. Lacson

should be exercised so that the general terms of the constitutional guarantee would not be lost in
the specific and detailed provisions of the rules promulgated
5
for its enforcement.
Speedy trial is said to constitute not a privilege, but a right, 6one that is recognized as
fundamental. It is one of the most basic and inviolable rights. Thus, enshrined in our
Constitution is 7the mandate that in all criminal prosecution, the accused shall enjoy the right to
7
a speedy trial. To expedite not only the trial stage but also the disposition of the case itself, the
framers of our Constitution saw the need to further provide that all persons shall have the right 8
to a speedy disposition of their cases before all judicial, quasi-judicial or administrative bodies.
The crusade towards a speedy justice did not stop in the Constitution. To supplement it and to
render its guarantee, more effective, Congress enacted Republic Act No. 8493 (Speedy Trial Act of
1998) which aims to ensure a speedy trial of all criminal cases before the Sandiganbayan,
Regional Trial Courts, Metropolitan Trial Courts and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts. For its part,
this Court promulgated Circular No. 39-98 for the purpose of implementing the provisions of RA
8493. And when the 2000 Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure was drafted, substantial portions
of RA 8493 and Circular No. 39-98 were included therein, thus:
Section 1 (g) of Rule 116Unless a shorter period is provided by special law or Supreme Court circular,the
arraignment shall be held within thirty (30) days from the date the court acquires jurisdiction over the person
of the accused. The time of the pendency or a motion to quash or for a bill of particulars or other causes
justifying suspension of the arraignment shall be excluded in computing the period.
Section 1 of Rule119After a plea of not guilty is entered,the accused shall have at least fifteen (15) days
to prepare for trial. The trial shall commence within thirty (30) days from receipt of the pre-trial order.
Section 2 of Rule 119Trial once commenced shall continue from day to day as far as practicable until
terminated. It may be postponed for a reasonable period of time for good cause.

_______________
5State vs. Brockelman, 173 Kan. 469, 249 P. 2d 692 (1952).
6State vs. Strong, supra.
7Section 14 (2), Article III.
8Section 16, Article III.

359

VOL. 400, APRIL 1, 359


2003
People vs. Lacson

The Court shall, after consultation with the prosecutor and defense counsel, set the case for continuous trial
on a weekly or other short-term trial calendar at the earliest possible time so as to ensure speedy trial.In no
case shall the entire trial period exceed one hundred eighty (180) days from the first day of trial, except as
otherwise authorized by the Supreme Court.

And still, to achieve speedy trial and speedy disposition of cases, this Court promulgated Section
8, Rule 117.
The foregoing laws and rules are, merely tools to enforce the constitutional guarantee. They do
not constitute its definition. It bears reiterating that just because Section 8, Rule 117 is found to
the inapplicable does notipso factoindicate that there is no violation of the right to speedy trial
and speedy disposition of cases. The laws and rules, which are just legislative construction or
application of the pervasive constitutional guarantee must be construed fairly in view of the right
they seek to enforce. They cannot be considered to have a limiting effect on the constitutional
guarantee. Significantly, the 2000 Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure is not silent on the
matter. Section 10, Rule 119 specifically states:
SEC. 10.Law on speedy trial not a bar to provision on speedy trial in the Constitution.No provision of law
on speedy trial and no rule implementing the same shall be interpreted as a bar to any charge of denial of
the right to speedy trial guaranteed by section 14 (2), Article III, of the 1987 Constitution.
Ultimately, whether the constitutional guarantee of speedy trial has been complied with is still a
judicial question to be answered in the light of the circumstances of each particular case and
guided 9 by the principle that the proceedings were free from vexatious, capricious and oppressive
delays. Our case law is rich with doctrines setting the parameters of the right 10to speedy trial
and the right to speedy disposition of cases. In the recent case ofPeople vs. Leviste, we reiterated
our ruling that the right to speedy trial is violated only where there is an unreasonable, vexatious
and oppressive delay without the participation or fault of the accused, or

_______________
9State vs. Kuhnhausen, 272 P. 2d 225 (1954).
10 G.R. No. 104386, March 28, 1996, 255 SCRA 238 (1996), citing People vs. Tampal, 314 Phil. 35; 244 SCRA
202(1995).

360

360 SUPREME COURT


REPORTS
ANNOTATED
People vs. Lacson

when unjustified postponements are sought which prolong the trial for unreasonable length of
time. 11
On the other hand, inCaballero vs. Alfonso, Jr. we laid down the guidelines in determining
the applicability of the speedy disposition formula. There, we held that speedy disposition of
cases is a relative term. Just like the constitutional guarantee of speedy trial, speedy
disposition of cases is a flexible concept. It is consistent with delays and depends upon the
circumstances. What the Constitution prohibits are unreasonable, arbitrary and oppressive
delays which render rights nugatory.
Years of serious deliberation yield certain factors to be considered in the determination of
whether or not the right to a speedy trial and speedy disposition of cases has been violated. These
are: 1) length of delay; 2) reason for12the delay; 3) assertion of the right or failure to assert it;
and4) prejudice caused by the delay. These factors are effective in balancing the interest of the
State and the accused.
Records show that the period between the dismissal of Criminal Cases Nos. Q-99-81679 to 89
and the refiling of the new Informations docketed as Criminal Cases Nos. 01-101102 to 01-
101112, is two (2) years and two (2) months. It13 may be recalled that Criminal Cases Nos. Q-99-
81679 to 89 were dismissed onMarch 29, 1999. Department of Justice (DOJ) re-investigated the
cases only upon its receipt onMarch 29, 2001of General Leandro Mendozas letter, indorsing the
affidavits of P/S Ins. Abelardo Ramos and P/S Ins. Ysmael Yu. On June 6, 2001, new
Informations were filed against respondent. Petitioners justify the belated re-investigation on the
ground that prior to the appearance14
of Ramos and Yu, the government had no evidence, to
sustain the refiling of the cases. They also claim that due to respondents close association with
Former President Joseph Estrada and 15his position then as PNP Chief, the witnesses were
deterred from coming out with the truth.

_______________
11G.R.
No. L-45647, August 21, 1987,153 SCRA 153(1987).
12Guerrero vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 107211, June 28, 1996, 257 SCRA 703; Cojuangco Jr., vs.
Sandiganbayan,G.R. No. 134307, December 21, 1998,300 SCRA 367.
13Rollo at pp. 93-102.
14Id., at p. 62.
15Id., at p. 1082.

361

VOL. 400, APRIL 1, 361


2003
People vs. Lacson

The justifications raised by petitioners are contrary to the records. As early as July 1999, Yu
executed 16an affidavit attesting to the very same facts contained in his March 24, 2001
affidavit.
17
Another witness, Mario Enad, also executed his affidavit as early as August 8,
1995. Petitioners have never claimed that these two were unwilling to testify on earlier dates.
Also, nowhere in their affidavits is a statement that they were afraid of testifying against
respondent because he is a friend of the Former President or was a PNP Chief. The two even
mentioned the names of other witnesses whom petitioners could have utilized in an earlier re-
investigation. Clearly, what glares from the records is that from the time of the dismissal of
Criminal Cases Nos. Q-99-81679 to 89, there was an unjustified interval of inactivity of more
than two (2) years on the part of the prosecution.
Petitioners cannot argue that respondent failed to assert his right to speedy trial and speedy
disposition of cases. While we have ruled that if an accused wants to exercise his constitutional
18
right to a speedy trial, he should ask, not for the dismissal, but for the trial of the case, however,
the same cannot be expected of respondent. It would be ludicrous for him to ask for the trial of his
cases when the same had already been dismissed. During the interval, there were no incidents
that would prompt him to invoke the right. Indeed, 19
the delay could only be attributed to the
inaction on the part of the investigating officials.
Neither can petitioners argue that the right to speedy trial is inapplicable since the charges
have been dismissed. As explained by Justice Marshall, the anxiety brought by public prosecution
does not disappear simply because the initial charges are temporarily dismissed. After all, the
government20
has revealed the seriousness of its threat of prosecution by initially bringing
charges. Consequently, when the government has already investigated and charged an accused,
it is in a much better position and properly

_______________
16Id.,at p. 626.
17Id.,at p. 389.
18Esmena vs. Pogoy,G.R. No. 54110, February 20, 1981,102 SCRA 861;People vs. Diaz,94 Phil. 714(1954).
19SeeLopez vs. Office of the Ombudsman,G.R. No. 140529, September 6, 2001,364 SCRA 569.
20United States vs. Macdonald,456 U.S. 1(1982), see Dissenting Opinion.

362

362 SUPREME COURT


REPORTS
ANNOTATED
People vs. Lacson
shoulders a greater responsibility to reinvestigate and re-prosecute him with21 reasonable
promptness. Sadly, this was not done in this case. InCervantes vs. Sandiganbayan, we upheld
the accuseds right to speedy disposition of his case notwithstanding his alleged failure to take
any step to assert his right, thus:
We cannot accept the Special Prosecutors ratiocination. It is the duty of the prosecutor to speedily resolve
the complaint, as mandated by the Constitution, regardless of whether the petitioner did not object to the
delay or that the delay was with his acquiescence provided that it was not due to causes directly attributable
to him.

Generally, the question of how much lapse of time is consistent with the constitutional guarantee
of speedy trial and speedy disposition of cases varies with the particular circumstances. There is
no constitutional basis for holding that 22
the right to a speedy trial can be quantified into a
specified number of days and months. The mere passage of time is not sufficient to establish a
denial of a right to a speedy trial, but a lengthy delay, which is presumptively prejudicial,
23
triggers
the examination of other factors to determine whether rights have been violated. In a case, it has
been held that a delay of more than one (1) 24year is presumptively prejudicial and shifts the
burden to the government to justify the delay. Certainly, the two-year delay here is prejudicial
to respondent and it should be taken against petitioners, they having failed to show any good
cause or reason for such delay.

_______________
21G.R. No. 108595, May 18, 1999,307 SCRA 149.
2221A Am Jur 2d 1036.
23U.S. vs. Villete, 688 F. Supp. 777 (D. Mer 1988);Hutchison vs. Marshall, 573 f. Supp. 496, 9 Media 1. Rep. BNA)

2443 (S.D. Ohio 1983), judgment affd, 744 F. 2d 44 (6thCir. 1984);Dykes vs. State, 452 So. 2d. 1377 (Ala. Crim. App.
1984); State vs. Johnson, 190 Conn. 541, 461 A. 2d 981 (1983) (16-month delay triggers judicial scrutiny); State vs.
Johnson, 564 A. 2d 364 (Del. Super. Ct. 1989);State vs. Russel,supra(23-month delay triggers judicial scrutiny);State vs.
Strong, supra; Skaggs vs. State, 676 So. 2d 897 (Miss. 1996) (delay of eight months or more is presumptively
prejudicial);State vs. Powers, 612 S.W. 2d 8 (Mo. Ct. App. S.D. 1980);State vs. Sanderson, 214 Mont. 437, 692 P. 2d 479
(1985) (390-day delay triggers speedy trial inquiry).
24Graves vs. U.S., 490 A 2d 1086 (D.C. 1984).

363

VOL. 400, APRIL 1, 363


2003
People vs. Lacson

Another factor to be considered in determining whether respondents right to a speedy trial and
disposition of cases has been violated is the prejudice to him. In his comment, he states:
x x x (i) he had every reason to believe that the sword of Damocles which had hang atop his head by virtue
of the filing of the original charges in 1995 had been obliterated by their dismissal in 1999 as he has the
right to Due Process and to be rid of the paranoia of being harassed for charges by the Republic and to indict
him for heinous offenses and subject him to a non-bailable action disenfranchises eight (8) Million or so
voters who had put him in office as their representative, (ii) it smacks of oppression as petitioner DOJ
Secretary had filed or instigated new cases against him for an undisclosed political agenda, (iii) his
detractors, including petitioner DOJ Secretary, have the capacity to influence the litigation including the
investigation and prosecution thereof, (iv) it is plainly a vindictive action perpetrated by a PNP Senior
Superintendent whom petitioner had accused of kidnapping for which he was punished and sent to the
National Penitentiary until he was recently released and re-assumed a post as Intelligence Chief25under the
current administration, and (v) respondent is now the subject of persecution and not prosecution.
There is no denying that the filing of new Informations against respondent had 26
caused him
undue prejudice. Almost eight (8) years have elapsed since November 21, 1995, the date the
original Informations were filed, and more than three (3) years have passed since Criminal Cases
Nos. Q-99-81679 to 89 were dismissed on March 29, 1999. It is therefore reasonable for
respondent to expect that by27 this time, petitioners would finally give him peace of mind.
InLicaros vs. Sandiganbayan, we ruled that the delay in the disposition of the case had caused
much prejudice, distress and anxiety to petitioner whose career as bank executive and
businessman has suffered the stigma of being shackled to an unresolved criminal prosecution,
virtually hanging like a Damocles sword over his head for more than a decade. There, we
stressed the consequences and problems inherent in protracted litigation which include, among
others, the stagnant professional growth, hampered travel opportunities and a besmirched
reputation. It cannot be said that respondent does not suffer the same consequences now.

_______________
25Rolloat p. 504.
26Id.,
at p. 96.
27G.R. No. 145851, November 22, 2001,370 SCRA 394.

364

364 SUPREME COURT


REPORTS
ANNOTATED
People vs. Lacson

Prejudice does not only consist of impairment of the accuseds28


ability to defend himself, it may
also include other sufferings, such as anxiety and stigma. Respondent is not an ordinary citizen.
He is a Senator who has a reputation to protect. The publicity caused by the refiling of new
Informations undoubtedly tainted his name. Moreover, he has to defend himself constantly from
the nagging accusations that interfere in the performance of his duties as a Senator.
I believe that the prosecution now of respondent is tantamount to persecution.
While it is the policy of this Court not to interfere in the exercise of the prosecutors discretion,
however, it cannot tolerate a refiling of new Informations, as in this case, at the impulse of the
officials in command. The prosecution of an accused must not be made to depend on who is
perceived as an enemy by those who sit in power but on the sacrosanct duty of prosecutors to
bring to justice those believed to be offenders of the law while ensuring that their rights under
the Constitution remain inviolable.
The sudden over-eagerness of petitioners to prosecute respondent, to my mind, is not really an
indicum of competence, it is a clear example of persecution. This was not overlooked by the Court
of Appeals which held:
x x x Apparently, hints of persecution are manifest in the case of petitioner. For one, though earlier accused
as an accessory in the original multiple murder cases, petitioner is now charged as a principal in the recent
revival of the criminal casesobviously to preclude any opportunity on his part to evade incarceration by
seeking bail.Persecution is likewise apparent in the hurried pace at which the preliminary investigation of
the subject criminal cases was completed by respondent prosecutors and in the immediate and abrupt filing of
the Informations
29
against petitioners in only a matter of days after the original petition had been filed in this
Court.
30
Petitioners ought to be reminded of the caveat in Tatad vs. Sandiganbayan that prosecutors
should not allow and should avoid giving the impression that their noble office is being used or
_______________
28InU.S. vs. Dreyer, it was held that the factor of prejudice is not limited impairment of defense; it includes mental
suffering.
29Rollo at p. 159.
30Supra.

365

VOL. 400, APRIL 1, 365


2003
People vs. Lacson

prostituted, wittingly or unwittingly, for political ends or other purposes alien to, or subversive of,
the basic and fundamental objective of serving the interest of justice evenhandedly, without fear
or favor to any and all litigants alike, whether rich or poor, weak or strong, powerless or mighty.
Their undue haste in conducting the preliminary investigation of the 26 accused and their
inordinate interest to re-file the cases hurriedly raise a quizzical eyebrow.
Not to be glossed over is the fact that the preliminary investigation which resulted in the filing
of new Informations was initiated only by the letter dated March 27, 2001 of PNP Chief General
Mendoza to then DOJ Secretary Hernando B. Perez. I do not think that the said letter could
qualify as 31a complaint under Section 3, Rule 112 of the 2000 Revised Rules of Criminal
Procedure, the basis for a preliminary investigation. 32
The procedure adopted is a departure from
the usual mode. Again, inTatad vs. Sandiganbayan, we held:
A painstaking review of the facts cannot but leave the impression that political motivations played a vital
role in activating and propelling the prosecutorial process in this case. Firstly, the complaint came to life, as
it were, only after Tatad had a falling out with President Marcos. Secondly, departing from established
procedures prescribed by law for preliminary investigation, which require the submission of affidavits and
counter-affidavits by the complainant and the respondent and their witnesses, the Tanodbayan referred the
complaint to the Presidential Security Command for fact-finding investigation and report.

Indeed, the circumstances surrounding the filing of the new Informations against respondent are
indicative of persecution and not prosecution.

_______________
31 (a) The complaint shall state the address of the respondent and shall be accompanied by the affidavits of the

complainant and his witnesses, as well as other supporting documents to establish probable cause. They shall be in such
number of copies as there are respondents, plus two copies for the official file. The Affidavits shall be subscribed and
sworn to before any prosecutor or government official authorized to administer oath, or in their absence or unavailability,
before a notary public; each of whom must certify that he is personally examined the affiants and that he is satisfied that
they voluntarily executed and understood their affidavits.
32Supra.

366

366 SUPREME COURT


REPORTS
ANNOTATED
People vs. Lacson
One thing for which this Court must guard itself against is to be used as an instrument of
political manipulation. As the last bulwark of the defenseless and the accused, our duty is to
uphold the law and no other. Certainly, in the hierarchy of rights, the Bill of Rights takes
precedence over the right of the State 33to prosecute, and when weighed against each other, the
scales of justice tilt towards the former.

II. Section 8, Rule 117 applies to respondents cases upon compliance with its
requirements.

Going back to Section 8, Rule 117, the remand of this case to the trial court for the determination
of whether or not the requirements of this provision have been complied with is imperative.
I am not convinced that the dismissal of Criminal Cases Nos. Q-99-81679 to 89 was without
the consent 34
of respondent and that the offended parties were not notified. It appears from the
Resolution dated March 29, 1999 of the trial court that respondents prayer was for that court to
(1) make a judicial determination of the existence of probable cause for the issuance of warrants
of arrest; (2) hold in abeyance the issuance of warrants in the meantime; and (3)dismiss the cases
should the court find probable cause. Clearly, this third plea is a manifestation that the
dismissal of the cases was with respondents consent. While it is true that what he filed is a mere
motion for the judicial determination of probable cause and for examination
35
of prosecution
witnesses, the same was anchored on the case of Allado vs. Diokno. There, we ruled that [I]f
upon the filing of the information in court, the trial judge, after reviewing the information and the
document attached thereto, finds that no probable cause exists, he must either call for the
complainant and the witnesses themselves or simply dismiss the case. There is no reason to hold
the accused for trial and further expose him to an open and public accusation of the crime when no
probable cause exists. With this as respondents premise, I believe it is safe to conclude that the
dismissal was with his express consent.

_______________
33Allado vs. Diokno,G.R. No. 113630, May 5, 1994,232 SCRA 192.
34Rolloat pp. 93-103.
35Supra.

367

VOL. 400, APRIL 1, 367


2003
People vs. Lacson

At any rate, considering the view that there is doubt on whether respondent gave his express
consent to the dismissal of the cases, as expressed in our challenged Resolution, this incident
should be determined by the trial court. With respect to the requirement of notice to the offended
parties, again the same should be addressed to the trial court which can hear the parties thereon.
We must maintain a hands-off stance on these matters for a different approach might lead us
astray into the field of factual conflict where our legal pronouncements would 36
not rest on solid
grounds. Time and again we have ruled that this Court is not a trier of facts.
The petitioners maintain that Section 8, Rule 117 cannot be applied retroactively for to do so
would work injustice to the People. Settled in our jurisprudence is the principle that
37
when a new
law will be advantageous to the accused, the same may be given retroactive effect. This is more
particularly so when the law is merely procedural. In several cases, we applied the provisions of
38
38
the 2000 Rules of Criminal Procedure retroactively. We should take the same action on Section
8, Rule 117 considering that it is a reinforcement of a persons constitutional right to speedy trial
and speedy disposition of cases.
Moreover, it has been held that the constitutional provision barring the passage of retroactive
laws protects only the rights of
39
citizens. Hence,a state may constitutionally pass a retroactive law
that impairs its own 40
rights. Only private, and not public, rights may become vested in a
constitutional sense. Otherwise stated, there is a distinction between the effect to be given a
retroactive statute when it relates to private rights and when it relates to

_______________
36La Suerte Cigar and Cigarette Factory vs. Director of the Bureau of Labor Relations,208 Phil. 597(1983); National
Food Authority vs. Court of Appeals,G.R. No. 96453, August 4, 1999,311 SCRA 700.
37Article 22, Revised Penal Code.
38People vs. Arrojado,G.R. No. 130492, January 31, 2001,350 SCRA 679.
3916B Am Jur 2d 697 citingRousselle vs. Plaquemines Parish School Bd., 633 So. 2d 1235, 90 Ed. Law Rep. 519 (La.

1994) rehg denied, (Apr. 21, 1994);Town of Nottingham vs. Harvey, 120 N.H. 889, 424 A 2d 1125 (1980).
40Bradford vs. Suffolk Country, 257 A.D. 777 15 N.Y. S. 2d 353 (2d Dept. 1939), judgment affirmed as modified, 283

N.Y. 503, 28 N.E. 2d 932 (1940).

368

368 SUPREME COURT


REPORTS
ANNOTATED
People vs. Lacson

public rights. Public rights may always41


be modified or annulled by subsequent legislation without
contravening the Due Process Clause.
While I concurred in our challenged Resolution that this case should be remanded to the trial
court to enable it to determine whether the requirements of Section 8, Rule 117 have been
complied with, however,I still believe that we should settle now once and for all the most crucial
issue, i.e., whether or not the provisional dismissal contemplated in the Rule shall become
permanent two years after the issuance of the order and thus constitutes a bar to a subsequent
prosecution for the same offense. To evade it now is to delay the day of reckoning and to put the
legal community in a quandary.
The principle adhered to by petitioners is that the rule prohibits only arevivalof a criminal
case after the lapse of the periods prescribed therein and does not impinge 42on the right of the
State to prosecute an offender for the same offense under anew Informa-tion. Thus, there arises
the distinction between revival and filing of a new Information.
Section 8 of Rule 117 is43 a new provision. To reiterate, it draws its life from the constitutional
guarantees ofspeedy trial and

_______________
41Holen vs. Minneapolis-St. Apul Metropolitan Airports Commission, 250 Minn.
42Decision at pp. 33.
43While there are jurisprudence to the effect that once charges are dismissed, the speedy trial guarantee is no longer

applicable, (State vs. Marion,404 U.S. 307;Dillingham vs. United States,423 U.S. 64;Barker vs. Wingo,407 U.S. 514),
however, I am convinced that the peculiar facts of the present case render said jurisprudence inappropriate. On its face,
the Constitutional provision seems to apply to one who has been publicly accused, has obtained dismissal of those charges,
and has then been charged once again with the same crime by the same sovereign. Nothing therein suggests that an
accused must be continuously charged in order to obtain the benefits of the speedy trial right. A natural reading of the
language is that the Speedy Trial Clause continues to protect one who has been accused of a crime until the government
has completed its attempts to try him for that crime. InKlopfer vs. North Carolina,386 U.S. 213, the prosecutor entered a
nolle prosequiwith leave after the first trial ended in a mistrial. Under that procedure, the defendant was discharged
from custody and subjected to no obligation to report to the court. It was held that the indefinite postponement of the
prosecution, over defendants

369

VOL. 400, APRIL 1, 369


2003
People vs. Lacson

speedy disposition of cases. Its mandate is explicit, i.e., a provisional dismissal of an offense
becomes permanent if not revived within the prescribed periods (or two years in respondents
cases). To say that this permanent dismissal prohibits only the revival of the case but not the
filing of new Information, is to render the provisionineffectual, providing only lip service to the
accuseds constitutional right it seeks to enforce.Indeed, what difference will the provision make
if after the lapse of two years, the State can still prosecute the accused for the same offense by
merely filing a new Information?With the interpretation given, the dismissal cannot really be
considered permanent. After two years, all the prosecution has to do is to file a new
Information. Thus, whether by revival or by filing a new Information, the effect is the
same,i.e., the prosecution of the accused for the same offense continues. What is overlooked is
that, in the interim, he continues to suffer all the prejudices that come with the failure of the
prosecution to put a real end to his case. We might as well take heed of the warning against
allowing doctrinaire
44
concepts . . . to submerge the practical demands of the constitutional right
to a speedy trial.
What price does the State have to pay for its lethargy or negligence to prosecute? If I am to
follow petitioners position, then I can say that the only sanction for the violation of the periods
prescribed in Section 8 is that the State should conduct the corresponding new preliminary
investigation before it can file a new information. It seems to me that the new preliminary
investigation is the only difference between filing a new information and revival. To my mind,
conducting a preliminary investigation is hardly a sanction for the prosecutions negligence.
While a new preliminary investigation causes intense inconvenience to the prosecution, the
accused suffers as well. Indeed, considering the

_______________

objection clearly denied the defendant the right to a speedy trial. The Court reasoned that the defendant may be
denied an opportunity to exonerate himself in the discretion of the solicitor and held subject to trial, over his objection,
throughout the unlimited period in which the solicitor may restore the case to the calendar. During that period, there is
no means by which he can obtain a dismissal or have the case restored to the calendar trial. The prosecutor was required
to take affirmative steps to reinstate the prosecution; no charges were actively pending against Klopfer, nevertheless,
the court held that the speedy trial right applied.
44Smith vs. Hooey,393 U.S. 374(1969).

370

370 SUPREME COURT


REPORTS
ANNOTATED
People vs. Lacson

additional delay the prosecution incurs in bringing the case to a conclusion as a result of the
filing of a new information and the anxiety on the part of the accused by a threat of a new
prosecution, the interpretation accorded to Section 8, Rule 117 has not advanced its real purpose.
Let it be stressed that Section 8 was introduced not so much for the interest of the State but
precisely for the protection of the accused against protracted prosecution. The measure of
protection consistent with its language is the treatment of the permanent dismissal as a bar to
another prosecution for the same offense.
The discharge of an accused for failure of the prosecution to bring him to trial within the
prescribed period is not an entirely new concept. Even prior to the introduction of Section 8, there
were already provisions of similar import in other jurisdictions. Under certain statutes
implementing the constitutional right of an accused to speedy trial, a discharge granted pursuant
to the statute is held to be a bar to subsequent prosecution, whether under the same or new
indictment. This view has been defended on the ground that any other construction would open
the way for complete evasion of the statute and that the constitutional provision can only be
given its legitimate effect by holding that45
a person once discharged is entitled to immunity from
further prosecution for the 46same offense.
In State vs. Crawford, the Supreme Court of West Virginia entered a judgment forever
discharging the accused from prosecution for the offense on the basis of a rule requiring that
every person charged with felony, and remanded to a circuit court for trial, shall be forever
dischargedfrom prosecution for the offense, if there be three regular terms of such court, after
the indictment is found against him without a trial. The discharge was decreed notwithstanding
the fact that it waswithin the third termthat the State entered anolle prosequiand at the same
time reindict for the same offense. The court ratiocinated:
When a prisoner has stood ready for trial through two full terms and substantially through the third one,
and, no doubt, until the jury has been discharged and the opportunity for trial at that term annihilated, he
has substantially performed all the statutory conditions required to his

_______________
4521 A Am Jur 2d 1053.
4698 S.E. 615.

371

VOL. 400, APRIL 1, 371


2003
People vs. Lacson

right of discharge. Although such a discharge is not the moral equivalent of an acquittal, and he may be
guilty, his constitutional right to have his guilt or innocence determined by a trial within a reasonable time
cannot be frittered away upon purely technical and unsubstantial ground. Nor is the legislative act designed
to enforce such right to be interpreted otherwise than in accordance with the recognized rules of
construction.To permit the state to enter a nolle prosequi within the third term and reindict for the same
offense, and thus deprive the prisoner of the terms fully elapsed as well as the term about to end, would make
it possible to keep the prisoner in custody or under recognizance for an indefinite period of time, on charges of
a single offense, unless perhaps, he could enforce a trial by the writ of mandamus. Such a construction as
substantially tends to the defeat or undue limitation of the purpose of a statute is not permissible in any
jurisdiction.
[4]That statutes shall be so construed as to effectuate the legislative purpose, not defeat it, is fundamental
and all-pervasive in statutory construction. The remedy given by law for failure to accord a prompt trial to
one charged with felonyis right to be discharged, not mandamus to obtain such trial. x x x.
47
InPeople vs. Allen, the Supreme Court of Illinois held that a discharge of the accused for failure
of the prosecution to try him within four months after written demand, renders him immune
from trial
48
for the same offense whether under the same or a new indictment. In Newlin vs.
People, the same court ruled that where a defendant, indicted and committed for crime, is
entitled, under the statute, to a discharge for delay in not bringing him to trial while being held
under the indictment, the fact that a second indictment is found for the same offense and anolle
prosequi entered as 49to the first indictment, does not defeat his right to be discharged. Again,
inPeople vs. Heider the same court held that an accused who has obtained his discharge owing
to the failure of the People to bring his case to trial within the time prescribed by the statute
enacted to carry into effect the constitutional guaranty of the right to a speedy trial, cannot be
committed or held for the same offense under a new indictment.
Clearly, there is a catena of jurisprudence supporting the principle that the first discharge of
the accused under a statute implementing the constitutional right to speedy trial constitutes a
bar to

_______________
4714N.E. 2d 397.
48221 Ill. 166, 77 N.E. 529.
49225 Ill. 347, 80 N.E. 291.

372

372 SUPREME COURT


REPORTS
ANNOTATED
People vs. Lacson

a subsequent prosecution for the same offense. I see no reason why we cannot adopt the same
principle.
To reiterate, Section 8, Rule 117 seeks to implement the constitutional guarantees
50
thata) in
all criminal prosecution, the accused shall enjoy the right to have a speedy trial, andb) that all
persons shall have the right to a51 speedy disposition of their cases before all judicial, quasi-
judicial, or administrative bodies. The importance of these rights cannot be overemphasized.
They are necessary and vital because a person should not have to face continued anxiety under a
prolonged threat of criminal prosecution. Postponement of trial for a long time will ordinarily
handicap an accused through the disappearance of necessary witnesses and loss of documentary
evidence. Furthermore, after many months or years, the memory of those witnesses who are
available will likely be impaired by the passage of time. These rights are protections too against
the harassment of being subjected 52
to accusation, with its harmful effect on the accuseds
reputation and business affairs. As aptly observed in a case, unreasonable delay between
formal accusation and trial threatens to produce more than one sort of harm, including
oppressive pre-trial incarceration, anxiety and concern of the accused, and the possibility that
the accuseds defense will be impaired by dimming memories and loss of exculpatory
evidence. Of these forms of prejudice, the most serious is53 the last because the inability of the
accused to prepare his case skews the fairness of the system.
The high regard attributed by this Court to the accuseds right to a speedy trial and to a
speedy disposition of his case is evident from the tradition established by our case law that the
dismissal of a criminal case based on the denial of the accuseds right to speedy
54
trial amounts to
an acquittal and constitutes a bar to another prosecution for the same offense. It is on the same
light that we should view Section 8.

_______________
50Section 14 (2), Article III, 1987 Constitution.
51Section 16, Article III, 1987 Constitution.
52Antieau,Modern Constitutional Law, Vol. 1, 1969 at 336.
53Doggett vs. United States,505 U.S. 647(1992).
54 People vs. Abano, 97 Phil. 28(1955); People vs. Tacneng, 105 Phil. 1298 (1959); People vs. Robles, 105 Phil.

1016(1959);Salcedo vs. Mendoza,G.R. No. L-49375, February 28, 1979,88 SCRA 811.

373

VOL. 400, APRIL 1, 373


2003
People vs. Lacson

A rule with the force of law should55be construed in the light of the object to be achieved and the
evil or mischief to be suppressed. It should
56
be given such a construction as will advance the
object and secure the benefits intended. This Courts Committee on Revision of the Rules of
Court surely saw the prejudice to the rights of the accused caused by a suspended provisional
dismissal of his case. Apparently, Section 8 was introduced owing to the many instances where
police agencies have refused to issue clearances, for purposes of employment or travel abroad, to
persons having pending cases, on the ground that the dismissal of such cases by the court was
merely provisional, notwithstanding57the fact that such provisional dismissal, more often than not,
had been done five or ten years ago.
In addition to the prejudice on the part of the accused, perceived by the Committee, we cannot
disregard the anxiety that he suffers because of a public accusation.
Petitioners attempt to create a conflict between the law on prescription of crimes and the rule
on provisional dismissal. They argue that substantive law should override or prevail over
procedural law.The conflict is non-existent. The
58
law on prescription of crimes refers to the period
during which criminal charges must be filed. Section 8 of Rule 117 refers to the period when a
provisional dismissal ceases to be temporary and becomes permanent, thus, no longer subject to
be set aside by the revival of criminal charges.This rule comes into play only after the State has
commenced the prosecution.
The twenty-year prescriptive period for a case punishable by death under Section 90 of the
Revised Penal Code is intended to give law enforcers ample time to apprehend criminals who go
into hiding. It also enables prosecutors to better prepare their cases,

_______________
55 Agpalo, Statutory Constructionat pp. 100 to 101, citing LVN Pictures vs. Philippine Musicians Guild, 110 Phil.
225; 1 SCRA 132(1961); People vs. Purisima, G.R. No. L-42050, November 20, 1978, 86 SCRA 542; Commissioner of
Internal Revenue vs. Filipinas Compania de Seguros,107 Phil. 1055(1960).
56Rivera vs. Campbell,34 Phil. 348(1916).
57Herrera,Remedial Law, Vol. IV, 2001 Ed. at p. 660.
58 Under Article 90, the Revised Penal Code, crimes punishable by death, reclusion perpetua, or reclusion

temporalshall prescribe in twenty (20) years.


374

374 SUPREME COURT


REPORTS
ANNOTATED
People vs. Lacson

look for witnesses, and insure that correct procedure has been followed. On the other hand, the
two-year period under Section 8, Rule 117 is intended to warn the State that once it filed a case,
it must have thereadinessandtenacityto bring it to a conclusion.The purpose of the period is to
encourage promptness in prosecuting cases.
Prejudice to the rights of the accused intensifies over time. While it is true that a mere
mathematical reckoning of the time involved is insufficient to determine a violation of an
accuseds right to speedy trial, we cannot disregard the reality that after the lapse of a certain
period, the reliability of a trial is compromised in ways that neither party can prove or, for that
matter, identify. It bears stressing that the mere passage of time impairs memories, causes
evidence to be lost, deprives the accused of witnesses, and interferes with his ability to defend
himself. Now, these nuisances may be avoided if we are to give full effect to Section 8 and
consider the permanent dismissal contemplated therein as a bar to a subsequent prosecution of
the accused for the same offense.Not only will it be in consonant with the cardinal principle of
justice and fairness, it will also provide force to the rule.
Let it be stated anew that this Court cannot and will not allow itself59
to be made an instrument
of politics nor be privy to any attempt at the perpetration of injustice.
In resum, I reiterate that petitioners undue delay in conducting a new preliminary
investigation and refiling of new Informations against respondent violated his constitutional
right to a speedy trial and speedy disposition of his cases. Respondent correctly invoked the
implementing Rule, Section 8, Rule 117. But as we held in our questioned Resolution, it must
first be shown before the trial court that its requirements have been complied with. And I venture
to add that should the trial court find that these requirements have been complied with, then the
provisional dismissal of Criminal Cases Nos. Q-99-81679 to 89 becomes permanent and thus
constitutes a bar to a subsequent prosecution of respondent for the same crimes.
As a final word, punishment should be imposed on the accused only if he violated the law.
However, his constitutional privileges

_______________
59Constantino vs. Desierto,G.R. No. 127457, April 13, 1998,288 SCRA 654.

375

VOL. 400, APRIL 1, 375


2003
People vs. Lacson

and immunities must be protected against the States arbitrary assertions of power. Obviously,
its filing of new Informations against respondent for the same crimes after the lapse of two years
contravenes no less than the universal principle of justice and fairness, the bedrock of every
Constitution, law and rule.
WHEREFORE, I vote to DENY petitioners motion for reconsideration.
Motion for reconsideration granted, resolution of May 28, 2002 set aside. CA decision in CA-
G.R. SP No. 65034 reversed. Respondents petition in Civil Case No. 01-100933 dismissed. RTC of
Quezon City, Br. 81 directed to proceed with Criminal Cases Nos. 01-1102 to 01-101112 with
deliberate dispatch.

Notes.The right to speedy trial is violated only where there is an unreasonable, vexatious
and oppressive delay without the participation or fault of the accused, or when unjustified
postponements are sought which prolong the trial for unreasonable lengths of time. (Guerrero vs.
Court of Appeals,257 SCRA 703[1996])
A hasty dismissal, instead of unclogging dockets, actually increases the workload of the justice
system as a whole and causes uncalled-for delays in the final resolution of cases. (People vs.
Leviste,255 SCRA 238[1996])
Any witting or unwitting error of the prosecution in asking for the discharge of an accused,
and of the trial court in granting the petition to discharge, would not deprive the discharged
accused of the acquittal specified in Section 10 of Rule 119 and of the constitutional guarantee
against double jeopardy, as long as no question of jurisdiction is involved. (People vs. Deang,338
SCRA 657[2000])
While double jeopardy does not lie in administrative cases, it would be contrary to equity and
substantial justice to penalize a judge a second time for an act which he had already answered
for. (De Vera vs. Layague,341 SCRA 67[2000])
Where there is no transgression of the right of the accused to speedy trial, the reconsideration
of the trial courts initial order of dismissal upon the express consent of the accused did not result
in double jeopardy. (Almario vs. Court of Appeals,355 SCRA 1[2001])

o0o